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Dick Palmer: Openness may be the only realistic solution

In the judgment of this writer, the 2001 legislative session, soon to convene, may be the most important exercise in self-government since the invention of sliced bread.

In the judgment of this writer, the 2001 legislative session, soon to convene, may be the most important exercise in self-government since the invention of sliced bread.
At stake, what to do with projected tax surpluses and how to prioritize spending and tax appetites. In reality, tax cuts or refunds could well be eaten up by local government entities that are facing their own grass-roots economic issues caused basically because of a declining tax base.
As evidenced in this area, St. Louis County and the city of Duluth are seeking more real estate tax revenues principally to keep up with employee wage and benefit hikes.
The area school districts are another separate issue. Declining enrollments are not holding back the spending thirst of many school boards. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead seems to be the norm.
These are difficult times, as a possible recession may be looming, and local issues, like state issues, will need to be refined objectively and above all, openly.
Last Tuesday, Dec. 26, a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by Patricia Lopez Baden said of the upcoming session, "For those of you contemplating the smallness of your paycheck and the largeness of your tax bite, the coming legislative session bears glad tidings. Taxes almost certainly will go down. Only the means and amounts remain to be determined."
Her article pretty much sums up legislative expectations based on projected tax surpluses and a confidence in a steadily improving economy in Minnesota.
Democrats, Republicans and an Independent administration generally agree, but that's where the good humor comes to an abrupt end. How to accomplish this real Minnesota Miracle will be the challenge, and, unfortunately, the major mechanics by the troika will not shift into full stride until the waning moments of the legislative session.
Much will be lost with compromise fueled by exhausted legislators who will simply cave in to the conference committee assessments which are generally not in the best interests of the citizens of this state. In fact, many of the bills rewritten in conference committee don't even faintly represent the language and intent of the original legislation.
We agree that shoring up educational costs with state dollars certainly would be helpful if that money would be specifically earmarked for education programs, not brick and mortar projects that may or may not be in the best interests of individual school district taxpayers.
Health care support sounds good, too, but in this case, such support should be in concert with congressional initiatives.
The bottom line here suggests an event-filled legislative session colored with political bickering, double-talk and too-late-to-digest solutions.
Let the games begin.
Dick Palmer i the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 729-6470 or by e-mail at RPalmer341@aol.com .

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