Senate Democrats break with Dayton, suspend pay raises

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Gov. Mark Dayton suffered a setback in the ongoing battle over pay raises for his cabinet members Thursday, as the Minnesota Senate voted to suspend them.

The back-and-forth began last week when 2015 salary increases for 27 commissioners and agency heads were revealed. Some of the pay hikes are as large as $35,000 a year and they total more than $800,000.

Meeting with fierce opposition, Dayton defended the hikes by saying they would "attract and retain" the best civil servants. He added that many officials hadn't received raises in more than 10 years.

Until Thursday that opposition has been almost exclusively from Republican lawmakers, but it was the DFL-controlled Senate that voted 63-2 to block the pay hikes. They'll be suspended until July.

"It buys us the time we need in order to do a thoughtful review," Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk told the Star Tribune.

The move could signal a political divide between the Democratic governor and DFL lawmakers, at least where salary increases are concerned.

On Thursday, Dayton said Bakk "stab[bed] me in the back and blindside[d] me," Northland's NewsCenter reports.

Senate Democrats "clearly distanced themselves" from Dayton on the issue, writes a Pioneer Press blogger, who says the crushing vote made it clear the governor has "gone too far" for some of his allies.

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