ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Our View: Another critical reason emerges for a special session

From the editorial: "Rep. Ecklund’s red flag last week may have sparked painful memories for many up north of 2015 when lawmakers similarly were in position to help laid-off Iron Range workers whose unemployment benefits were expiring; instead, for months, they attempted to use the suffering and uncertainty felt by those Minnesota families for their own political leverage."

Capitol
(2005 file / Associated Press)
We are part of The Trust Project.

On top of so much left undone in St. Paul this year, here’s another good reason — and a critical one for the very financial survival of hundreds of Minnesota families — for legislative leaders and the governor to get serious about a special session.

Cleveland-Cliffs announced Friday plans to keep its Northshore Mining facility closed now until at least April 2023. Cliffs first idled Northshore on May 1, laying off about 410 of the 580 employees at the open-pit mine outside Babbitt and at the giant pellet plant on Lake Superior in Silver Bay.

The extended closure means that “most of the laid-off workers from Northshore will exhaust their (unemployment insurance) benefits before the Legislature returns to St. Paul in January,” as Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls, was quick to point out in a statement Friday.

“Therefore,” Ecklund pleaded to legislative leaders and to Gov. Tim Walz, “it’s critical for lawmakers to come together in a special session and extend this vital economic lifeline for those sent home from their jobs. I hope Governor Walz will call us back to the Capitol to take care of these workers and their families during these tough times — and wrap up other important unfinished business from the legislative session.”

The governor has said he won’t call a special session without agreements beforehand between committee chairs and/or leaders of the DFL-majority House and Republican-controlled Senate that all House members and senators can then quickly vote on. Without such agreements, a special session is more likely to drag on, running up an expensive overtime tab for Minnesota taxpayers. Unfortunately, legislative leaders have been far apart on a number of issues — and with little indication of recent negotiations.

ADVERTISEMENT

Lawmakers this past session didn’t even publicly consider a bonding bill, at one time the only reason legislative sessions were held in even-numbered years like this one. Those spending plans responsibly invest in and maintain public amenities, things like university buildings, utilities, parks, and the structures and spaces shared by all of us. It's like a homeowner digging deep on a regular basis to patch the roof when it leaks or to replace broken windows. And public infrastructure needs right now in Minnesota are perhaps as great as ever as we continue to recover from pandemic shutdowns.

Legislators also failed to finish this year a $3.9 billion tax plan and $4 billion in spending for nursing homes, schools, law enforcement, and other areas. That's even though the state has an unprecedented $9.3 billion budget surplus that, without legislative agreement, will stay in the state's coffers doing no one any good — rather than being invested to provide Minnesotans the help we desperately need as we all work to get ourselves and our state back upright following the tolls of COVID-19.

As previous News Tribune editorials also have lamented, lawmakers failing to get their work done — on time and for the good of all state residents — has become a frustratingly regular and unacceptable annual occurrence. We citizens have every reason to be upset, not that it seems to do any good year after year. We continue to send elected state representatives and senators to St. Paul to compromise, to reach agreements, and to help us through responsible lawmaking and legislating, and they continue to disappoint. And then run for reelection.

On top of that, Rep. Ecklund’s red flag last week may have sparked painful memories for many up north of 2015 when lawmakers similarly were in position to help laid-off Iron Range workers whose unemployment benefits were expiring; instead, for months, they attempted to use the suffering and uncertainty felt by those Minnesota families for their own political leverage.

Forgotten then, “Whenever Minnesotans face economic adversity, we have the responsibility to step up and help however we can,” as Ecklund stated now.

Even if they couldn’t, not often enough, during this year’s session, lawmakers are needed to work together, and push past their politics. Another 400-plus Northeastern Minnesotan families have just been added to the throngs already angrily screaming for legislators to do the job for which they’re elected.

our view.jpg
DNT

What to read next
The historic Leif Erikson Viking ship, long neglected in Duluth, has finally found a forever home on the North Shore.
From the editorial: "As well-prepared as (they) may be ... apprehension is to be expected. All the Northland can wish our neighbors on Agate Bay and Burlington Bay good luck this weekend."
From the editorial: "A hyper commitment to transparency and to avoiding even the appearance or suggestion that an elected or other public role is inappropriately being used for personal or business gain helps to maintain public trust in government."
From the editorial: "Under no circumstances would individual employees get to pick and choose what data to preserve while an investigation is underway."