Dayton, GOP trade letters and jabs over pay raises

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, February 11, 2015

By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL —Republicans and Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday took a new tact in their skirmish over commissioners’ pay raises: They exchanged polite but biting letters.

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Republican Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, invited Dayton to come before her committee to explain the pay hikes, which gave some of Dayton’s top appointees $35,000 raises this year. The governor, following the lead of many governors before him, refused the invitation but issued a question of his own: What about the large raises for House staff?

The volleys are the latest display of the two-week-long fight between the Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor and the Republican House over the large pay increases Dayton approved in January.

In declining House State Government Finance Chairwoman Sarah Anderson’s invitation to testify before her committee about the pay hikes Tuesday, Dayton invited members of the Legislature to come to an open meeting that he would host.

“Given the concerns expressed by you and other House Republicans about my administration’s salary levels and increases, I look forward to including a discussion of your own caucus’ salary practices,” Dayton wrote.

He noted that Ben Golnik, executive director of the House Republican Caucus and former Republican operative, received a $16,171 raise to make nearly $124,000 this year, and the nonpartisan Chief House Clerk Patrick Duffy Murphy now earns $148,000, thanks to a $32,508 pay boost he received when he was promoted into the position.

“It is my assumption that, like me, you made these salary decisions to attract and retain the best possible talent to serve the people of Minnesota and the state Legislature,” Dayton said.

Dayton’s top commissioners, who manage multibillion-dollar budgets, now make $155,000.

Anderson, R-Plymouth, said the letter from Dayton does not answer questions she would like aired.

“Many Minnesotans have expressed concerns over these pay raises, and this would be a chance for the Legislature and public to better understand your reasoning,” Anderson said in her letter to Dayton on Tuesday.