Divided we fell
Divided government failed to deliver for Minnesota. Oh, anyone can claim victories here and there, but most of those are small, non-controversial and supported along bipartisan lines. But make no mistake, the Minnesota Legislature failed Minnesota in a huge way in 2015. Water under the proverbial bridge now, but Minnesota voters should examine why there was such a massive failure in light of nearly a $2 billion surplus.
First of all, voters may take note there are 201 elected members of the Legislature plus an elected governor representing the executive branch. So why is the final budget decided by just a handful of individuals outside of the public eye in the waning minutes of an 18-week session?
Your answer is likely "no idea" and I will sadly agree with you. There is no valid reason. It is time to stop what has become a process accepted by both major parties in Minnesota. If ever I run for state office again it will not be on the issues; it will be about process, one that demands a resolve. Minnesotans deserve to be involved and they ought to have a transparent government.
Secondly, when politicians make campaign promises, be wary, because special interests apparently take precedence over the voters who believed those promises. Remember the commitment to Greater Minnesota made by so many? A commitment to solving the transportation problem? A promise to invest in workforce development and housing? Or maybe the often-popular promise to invest in economic development by expanding the border-to-border broadband initiative? No one should settle for paltry tokens tossed to Greater Minnesota when lawmakers walked away leaving nearly $1 billion on the bottom line. And why did they? Why was there no tax bill passed by the Legislature? These are all excellent questions that demand answers.
When the Legislature reconvenes in March, 2016, the focus will be on a bonding bill; presumably, that is the usual focus during the even year of the biennium. With over a $1 billion in bonding capacity projected to be available, you can be assured there will be stiff competition for each and every dollar. What will be under the radar is the contents of the tax bill and this is where all of us can make our voices heard. It is not acceptable to carve out $1 billion dollars in tax breaks for certain special interests when there is so much to be done for the average Minnesotan. The GOP is in control of the Minnesota House of Representatives and their focus so far has been on corporate tax breaks. Our focus should be on reducing costs to all Minnesotans, accomplished through fair and balanced tax policy.
Minnesota deserves better.
Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.