The Minnesota legislative session this year wrapped up the way all of them should, the way we should be able to expect them to, with compromise and toutable successes and work completed that will benefit all Minnesotans.
"You shouldn't get patted on the back for doing what you're supposed to do. I get that," Gov. Tim Walz said in an exclusive interview Monday with the News Tribune Editorial Board.
Regardless, after 10 years or more of sessions ending in chaos and with shouting, unread bills, dueling press conferences, and even government shutdowns, the end of legislating this year - even though a one-day special session was necessary to complete the work - is being praised for its lack of drama and entrenched partisanship.
The $48.3 billion two-year state budget was the result of give and take by both the Republican-majority Minnesota Senate and the DFL governor and DFL-led Minnesota House. The budget included an income tax cut, the first one in 20 years, the governor said. It also increased funding for education, 2 percent each of the next two years; protected health care for thousands of Minnesotans; launched a fight against Minnesota's opioid crisis, including by holding pharmaceutical companies more accountable; and more.
Even years-long battles over tax conformity and the restoration of local government aid (meaning $700,000 a year more returning to Duluth from the state and $1.5 million more per year for St. Louis County) were taken care of mostly as a matter of course - as such matters should be handled, free of petty partisan bickering.
"You did not see the name-calling. You didn't see tweeting against one another. You didn't see threats like in years past," Walz said. "What you saw were fair philosophical differences and really hard legislating. ...
"The culture doesn't change overnight," the governor said.
Minnesotans can start to hope the culture in St. Paul will change after a session of compromise and tangible results.
Results were particularly noteworthy for Duluth. A voter-endorsed half-percent sales tax to fund 25 years of street work was authorized. The Legislature also came through with $98.5 million for Duluth's medical district so parking can be added, sites can be prepared for construction, and infrastructure can be upgraded while Essentia Health and St. Luke's invest about $1 billion to get bigger and better. With the state's financial assistance, "We can ensure the public benefits from the private investments," as Mayor Emily Larson put it in an interview with the News Tribune Opinion page last week.
Our state's lawmakers and governor have the opportunity to build on the trust they established this session. Compromise and success can become the expectation and the norm rather than the headline-grabbing exception. This session showed that, unlike in D.C. and in too many state capitals around the country, state government in Minnesota can work.
"I think we have to see this as a real golden opportunity to build on this," said Walz. "When's the last time you saw all the parties stand up there together at the end and compliment each other? When was the last time you saw the (Minnesota) Chamber of Commerce compliment the governor for working on a budget? Or advocacy groups saying the Republicans helped deliver a good budget? There are real possibilities now. I'm not naive. I don't think this is 'Kumbaya.' (But) I think we have built the goodwill to now tackle some of the real gaps that lie between us and to try and see if there are some more compromises."
It's the way our state government always should operate, the way Minnesotans should be able to expect it to.