Minnesota House Speaker Steve Sviggum heard Baxter city officials make their case for a local option sales tax Wednesday, days after the Legislature declined to authorize the city's request.
Rep. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, said Sviggum urged them to make the case that their need was regional in nature. The matter could be brought up again, Gazelka said, possibly in a fall special session if the governor calls one.
Just before meeting with Baxter city officials, Sviggum said in an interview his legislative body pushed for a specific list of uses for local option sales taxes that would remove the need for legislative approval on a case by case basis. He also expressed a preference for projects that were of a regional nature such as airports, libraries and civic centers.
Minnesota House Speaker Steve Sviggum spoke about the recent legislative session in an interview Tuesday.
He said the Senate wanted to keep the power of having cities go to the Legislature and seek approval for sales tax proposal. He rejected the notion the Senate supported Baxter's recent bid for .5 percent sales tax while the House opposed it.
"I don't think that's true," he said. "We wanted a uniform, standard approach. The Senate did not. Every community in the state should know what the rules are."
In addition to meeting with Brainerd area reporters and Baxter city officials Sviggum planned stops in Mora and Aitkin on Wednesday.
Rep. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, said the speaker's meeting with Baxter officials was productive. In addition to Sviggum and Gazelka, the meeting included Mayor Darrel Olson, Finance Director Jeremy Vacinek, City Administrator Dennis Coryell and Public Works Director Trevor Walter.
In addition to reflecting on the recently concluded legislative session Sviggum responded to questions on the 2006 and the 2008 elections.
He said he didn't anticipate either Rep. Greg Blaine, R-Little Falls, or Rep. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, would challenge District 12 Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, in 2006. If they left their current seats Sviggum would have to make sure candidates were in the wings to move into the House races.
Koering gained statewide attention and criticism from some Republicans when he announced he was gay in April.
"They're both good folks," said of the two House members. "I suspect neither one of them will run for the Senate."
The speaker also said his dream national ticket for the Republican Party in 2008 would be Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for president and Gov. Tim Pawlenty for vice president.
A former colleague of the governor when they both served in the state House, Sviggum said he's been through a lot with the governor and admitted he's biased when discussing Pawlenty's political future.
"Tim is my best friend and I think the world of his talent," Sviggum said. "This guy is a wonderful talent. He certainly has had national people talk to him."
Minnesota, he pointed out, is one of a handful of states that was considered to be up for grabs in the 2004 presidential election. If that remains true in 2008, he said, that may enhance Pawlenty's possibility of being on the national ticket.
"I just hope we can keep him in Minnesota for four more years," Sviggum said.
Looking back at the 2005 Legislature, Sviggum said earlier bill deadlines and making sure members know there is nothing to gain by going past the deadline would help lawmakers finish on time.
"I think they should feel the pain," he said of Twin Cities lawmakers who stall legislation.
Sviggum guaranteed a on-time conclusion by lawmakers in 2006 because it's an election year and another shutdown would hurt all incumbents.
"We will finish on time -- guaranteed," he said.
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