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Pariseau wraps up final session at the capitol

Pat Pariseau's final session as a Minnesota Senator ended with a flurry of activity and some sleepless nights.

Pariseau, the Farmington resident who is retiring after 21 years in the Senate, went most of last weekend without sleep as legislators wrapped up their business. But she said she rarely felt tired. She went from the capitol to church Sunday morning without so much as a stop at home to freshen up.

The Minnesota Legislature finished its most important work Monday morning, but Rep. Pat Garofalo was upset that afternoon that legislators had left a lot of unpleasant decisions for the future.

Legislators erased a $3 billion budget deficit with an agreement approved in a brief special session Monday. But they did so in part by delaying $1.9 billion of state payments for education, a solution Garofalo said will lead to bigger problems down the road.

"We're going to have just a colossal budget deficit next year," said Garofalo, a Farmington resident. "Rather than address that now, we have engaged in accounting shifts and delays in payments that are going to make that problem worse, not better.

"Obviously we got it done in time, so that's a good thing," Garofalo said. "But once again the difficult decisions have been deferred until after the election. That is a bipartisan failure."

Garofalo expressed disappointment with much of what happened this year at the capitol. He'd hoped to see progress on education reform but said efforts were blocked by the teachers' union. He was unhappy with state rules that in some areas requires local units of government to spend their money in certain ways. State rules require local governments to continue their funding in some health and human service areas, for example, even if demand in those areas has declined.

"It's just about trusting our local elected officials instead of telling them what to do," Garofalo said.

Pariseau called her final session "crazy."

"There were so many things in the bonding bill," she said. "People were carrying a lot of things around they didn't offer because it was getting so big."

Garofalo was happy with some of what came from this year's legislative session. He approved of tax credit for business investors and tax cuts designed to spur job creation. He also was happy that efforts failed to expand a metropolitan transit taxing district to include Farmington.

"I think that was a big win," Garofalo said.

Pariseau, too, found things to be happy about in the session. She helped pass legislation that will bring a department of motor vehicles office to Farmington city hall. Pariseau said the new office will make it more convenient for Farmington residents to handle DMV business and will draw people downtown.

Hours after the session wrapped up, though, it was the budget that weighed heaviest on Garofalo's mind.

"We could have done a better job of reforming programs and making difficult choices now," Garofalo said. "We've made the job of the next legislature very difficult."

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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