Budgets reflect priorities

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As I write this article it is in the final hours of the 2017 legislative session, and it is shaping up to look like the legislature will not complete their work on time. As cliché as it may sound, the majority party (GOP) is literally passing huge omnibus bills in the middle of the night, trying to shove bills through to beat the constitutional deadline.

As they repeat this process year after year, I often hear from typical Minnesotans: Why does it have to be that way? The answer is, it does not have to be that way.

The inner workings of a legislative session are incredibly complex, and it does not take long to learn that governing is far different than campaigning. End-of-session planning, especially in divided government, is a critical function of the leadership team in the majority party. You need to allow enough time at the end to physically process the final budget bills and that cannot occur until negotiations are completed. In a divided government, these negotiations can be a challenge to predict.

What is perhaps the most egregious example of poor time management came in early May, when the GOP passed an entire series of omnibus budget bills that were all destined for a veto by Gov. Dayton. Republicans knew this ahead of time and still elected to devote an entire week to this wasted effort.

In addition to what I can only describe as a time management failure, I am increasingly concerned about what this proposed budget will do to our state’s fiscal future. Spending in the next biennium is one thing, but when it creates a deficit in the following biennium (in this case, 2020-2021) it results in a lopsided balance sheet. This is irresponsible, and deficit spending into the future should not be considered. I remain hopeful that as the final negotiations wind down, Gov. Dayton stands on behalf of all Minnesotans to prevent this.

Most Duluthians are telling me to focus on fixing health care, jobs, public education and infrastructure. Unfortunately for many, these priorities were not met. We can, and we should do better. People expect to not have to go broke simply by paying health insurance premiums. Folks expect their kids, and their neighbor’s kids, to have access to quality public education, including an affordable higher education. Your average Minnesotans want to have decent roads, good drinking water, sewers that work, and they want the ability to find and keep a decent job.

Budgets reflect priorities. In this case, I think the GOP has it all wrong.