Government: Democrats should build record, avoid overreach
The election victory celebrations in Minnesota DFL circles may include glee and legal THC, but there should also be plenty of doses of reality and fiscal restraint.
The DFL leaders in the House and Senate have razor-thin majorities. While Gov. Tim Walz won by a wider margin of 7.7 percentage points, the quality of the opposition candidate made the choice for voters much easier than thinking about policy positions.
The DFL should view this opportunity as a moment to take measured steps to approve bipartisan policies in some cases (easing voting registration, for example), and yet build a record of accomplishment and problem solving.
There are plenty of places to start. We believe first and foremost, Democrats should put forth a bonding bill. The failure to pass one in the last session left many critical projects idle and more expensive.
Mankato’s wastewater treatment plant is in dire need of a $60 million upgrade, one that would directly benefit regional cities and indirectly help other cities up and down the Minnesota River. Local legislators had lobbied to get half the funding through the bonding bill without success.
Dozens of other projects are critical needs rather than wants. While the bonding bill has often become a negotiating tool for end of session deals, that strategy should be rejected. Waiting will only increase the cost of projects. The Mankato wastewater plant project’s cost increased 30% in just a few months this year.
Keeping property taxes down should also be a priority. Some homeowners have seen double digit increases in property taxes due to wildly rising valuations and declines in the valuation of commercial property. Basic city services, like police and fire protection, have been hit with inflation in wages and equipment. Raising local government aid should be a priority.
A $9 billion to $11 billion surplus is historic, but taxpayers should get some of that back. We would prioritize removing any Minnesota tax from Social Security payments as well as other tax relief.
The deal struck last year between Democrats and Republicans that the GOP reneged upon would be a good starting place. That called for $4 billion in tax relief and $4 billion in spending investment in things like education, with the rest put toward a healthy reserve fund.
Reserves should be higher than they normally would be due to the huge economic risk of pandemics. Experts have said it’s not a matter of if we have another pandemic, it’s a matter of when.
Many small but significant programs were hurt by last year’s stalemate. Mankato’s domestic abuse program CADA will have to go without critically needed additional funding. The group needed the legislative money as funding from the crime victims fund has been flat for eight years.
With skyrocketing caseloads and stagnant funding, CADA and other shelters are left in desperate funding positions and have to rely on voluntary fundraisers.
Democrats and Republicans also failed to pass a comprehensive public safety bill last year that would have boosted public safety funding, put more officers on the streets, increased diversity ranks and otherwise boosted public safety. That compromise bill, or something close to it, should also be a priority for Democrats.
There are areas of a DFL agenda that have less public and bipartisan support and those should be lower on the priority list. Mandated paid family leave is a good idea, but Democrats should consider the concerns of the business community, which worries about implementation and costs.
We hope overreach on hot button topics is avoided. Minnesota abortion laws have stood up to legal challenges and seem secure for the time being, but codifying a right to an abortion seems reasonable given the overwhelming public support for such.
In the end, Democrats have a historic opportunity to pass long held priorities but also govern for the sensible center and approve policies that will benefit and or protect all Minnesotans.
— Mankato Free Press