Minnesota Opinion: Little reason for legislative optimism in 2017
Phrases like "top priorities," "the number-one thing we need to get done," and "the only reason we're meeting" haven't seemed to mean much to the Minnesota Legislature the past year or so. So is there any reason to be optimistic, with lawmakers d...
Phrases like "top priorities," "the number-one thing we need to get done," and "the only reason we're meeting" haven't seemed to mean much to the Minnesota Legislature the past year or so.
So is there any reason to be optimistic, with lawmakers descending on St. Paul last week for the launch of the 2017 session, that the work that needs to get done - and that ought to get done to benefit Minnesotans from Beaver Bay to Beaver Creek - actually will get done? Or will party-first politics continue to persist and proliferate instead?
Just like politics did a little over a year ago when hundreds of Iron Range workers were laid off, were hurting and losing their homes, and were in need of an extension of unemployment benefits to keep them afloat until they were called back to work. Rather than immediately assisting, lawmakers looked to get perks for their own districts and their own pet projects, allowing the suffering in the north to drag on unnecessarily for weeks and months.
Just like politics did last session when lawmakers failed to reach a deal on a bonding bill to fund crucial projects that build up and maintain public assets - even though it was a bonding bill year, meaning, as it originally was set up, the only reason for holding the session.
And just like politics did after the disappointing 2016 session when an agreement couldn't be reached to hold a one-day special session to provide badly needed financial relief to some 100,000 Minnesotans on the public health insurance exchange who are facing crippling, skyrocketing premium increases.
Again, Minnesotans hurting, lawmakers in position to help - what we elect them to do - and failure to get anything done.
So what can they get done this session? With Republicans now in charge of both the House and the Senate? With a DFL governor not shy about using his veto power? With uncertainty about priorities, direction, and more from D.C. and the administration of President-elect Donald Trump?
A bonding bill as a carryover from last year? Gov. Mark Dayton offered a proposal (recently), calling it a "jobs bill," with $1.5 billion in badly needed, now-delayed public investment that he said would give work to nearly 23,000 Minnesotans No way Republicans will go for a bill so large, but the proposal, at least for now, includes (important projects throughout the state).
Speaking of carryovers from last year, lawmakers can show urgency in helping those Minnesotans they failed after last year's session, those Minnesotans on the public health exchange who are facing premium increases of 50 percent and more. Both parties seem willing to provide as much as $300 million in relief. So they can get it done. How about this week. Why not?
Given all of that, Minnesotans easily may be overlooking the Legislature's and the governor's number-one task this new session. They have until the end of May to agree on a two-year state budget. If they don't, state government will shut down in the Gopher State.
While predicting a shutdown would be premature, its likelihood isn't - not considering our state political leaders' inability of late to push aside political poppycock and to get the work done that they need to get done.