Hoffman reflects on first six monthsPublished 10:49am Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The last six months have been a learning experience for District 10 Senator Gretchen Hoffman, who started her state legislative career in January. With only a scant few days remaining before July 1, when the state government will shut down if no budget agreement is reached, Hoffman reflected on what she’s been through so far and what she’s learned in the process.
Now that the legislative session is over, Hoffman has been trying to slip back into some semblance of a normal life.
“(I’m) getting reacquainted with my family,” she said. “I was gone for five months. (I’m) basically trying to get the word out to the people of this district what we were doing in St. Paul these last five months and where we’re at with the budget negotiations.”
Where are Republican lawmakers at? According to Hoffman, they’re in the same position they’ve been in for months now: waiting for DFL Governor Mark Dayton to negotiate.
“The Republican majorities proposed the largest budget in Minnesota’s history, so the information that we’re cutting, it’s misinformation,” she said, referencing the GOP’s proposed biennium budget of approximately $34 billion (as opposed to the $37 billion Dayton wants, to be funded by a tax increase on high earners).
She added that she was not entirely comfortable even with the $34 billion number, but she and other fiscally-minded conservatives consented as part of the negotiation process.
“It was … the realization that Governor Dayton wanted to grow much, much more,” she said.
While Hoff- man did express her frustration with Dayton, including stating that “he’s been talking about shutdown since the beginning, almost since we got there,” she downplayed talk of partisan attacks by DFL legislators, stating that they are, in effect, just doing their jobs.
“They send us there to argue, and they send us there to argue our principles,” she said. “I made a lot of promises to the people of the district on who I was, and I think I went there and represented who I was, what I told people at the door is what I tried to do in St. Paul.”
She added, “And so for people to start throwing around that, ‘They’re being so partisan’ – that is what it is.”
However, Hoffman was surprised by another group of political activists: protesters to the GOP agenda who she said used intimidation and dishonesty to try to influence lawmakers.
“There were a couple of threats we had to turn into the sergeant (-at-arm’s) office – one was an e-mail threat and one was some intimidation,” she said. She also once went to a meeting in which most of the attendees claimed to be her constituents but weren’t; the result included angry chanting and people demanding her address. It got so bad, she said, that she felt the need to call her husband at their Vergas home to warn him that people were trying to find out where she lived.
But, Hoffman remarked, “I don’t need to run around and play a victim. I felt safe there. The sergeant’s office was very good about making us feel safe.” However, she added, she regrets that capitol reporters never saw a news story in her getting an armed escort. The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms could not be reached for comment.
On what was probably the most covered news story about Hoffman this year, a Twitter post she wrote in May that the Senate Ethics Subcommittee ruled as misleading, Hoffman had no comment other than to say that she complied by the subcommittee’s ruling on the matter. The ethics complaint filed against Hoffman has since been dismissed.
Instead, Hoffman wished to focus on the legislation she’s helped push, including reducing business regulation, health care reform that allows people to take more personal control of their care, a bill that increases self-defense rights of gun owners and one that would prohibit abortion after the pregnancy is 20 weeks along. Though most of her efforts were vetoed by Dayton or haven’t yet been voted on, Hoffman has hope that her legislation will live on in other sessions.
For now, she’s left wondering with the rest of the state when she’ll make the drive to St. Paul for a special session to vote on a final budget bill. Her message to Dayton?
“We’re ready, we’re here. Call us back to work.”