Our View: Seize chance, St. Paul, to compromise, work together
From the editorial: "There’s no reason there can’t be both a healthy bonding bill and tax breaks that truly and meaningfully benefit middle-class and other Minnesotans who’ve been paying too much for too long."
Compromise hasn’t been much of a factor, or even a consideration, through the first half and several days of the 2023 session of the Minnesota Legislature. WIth the DFL in political control of the state Senate, Minnesota House, and governor’s office, DFL priorities have been getting checked off without much apparent thought for the other side of the aisle or consideration of countering viewpoints. Things like restoring the voting rights of convicted felons, granting driver’s licenses to immigrants in Minnesota illegally, and guaranteeing abortion access have been signed into law at breakneck speed — and over the objections of Minnesota’s Republican minority.
Those objections won’t be able to be ignored or bulldozed in the coming days, however, as attentions turn to a bonding bill, the Legislature’s way to responsibly pay for maintaining and improving those public spaces we enjoy or need: wastewater infrastructure; public buildings, including on universities; highway and bridge projects; parks; and more.
That’s because a 60% supermajority is needed to pass a bonding bill. In the House, that means at least 11 Republican votes are necessary to move along any borrowing and spending plan.
And Republicans, finally with a card to play this session, are insisting on tax cuts and that some of the state’s record, nearly $18 billion budget surplus be returned to taxpayers before they’ll take up bonding proposals. It’s not an unreasonable request, and Minnesota DFlers do seem to be open to it, as long as the benefits don’t only go to our wealthiest state residents. That seems reasonable, too.
“I’m incredibly supportive of bonding projects that improve state infrastructure, make roads safer, fund wastewater projects, and more,” Sen. Jason Rarick, R-Brook Park, wrote in a commentary last week to his northern-Minnesota constituents. “That being said, we absolutely have to keep tax relief in mind, and that needs to be the priority before we move forward with bonding legislation.”
“There will be tax cuts,” Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, acknowledged in a news story in the News Tribune this week.
Clearly, there is common ground shared by both parties. An opportunity to work together and compromise demands to be seized, even if there hasn’t been a lot of that yet this session — or in sessions past.
There’s no reason there can’t be both a healthy bonding bill and tax breaks that truly and meaningfully benefit middle-class and other Minnesotans who’ve been paying too much for too long. The shared goals are there, and the differing paths to achieve them don’t seem insurmountable.
Bonding and legislative priorities for Duluth include state dollars to help build a new air traffic control tower at Duluth International Airport, to make needed repairs to the Aerial Lift Bridge, to bolster the bottom line at Spirit Mountain, and to help make reality the Northern Lights Express commuter train between the Twin Ports and Twin Cities.
St. Louis County is looking for $24.5 million in state bonding to treat leachate at the Virginia landfill and $3.8 million to fix up and improve the aging and historic Depot in downtown Duluth, among other matters.
Appropriately, taxes are the hot topic in St. Paul, as a story this week in the News Tribune reported. Eliminating Minnesota’s shameful, outlying tax on seniors’ Social Security benefits, raising taxes on investment earnings, the possibility of tax rebates, and more all are being debated. May those debates be healthy, civil, and productive.
“This is a fairness and equity issue,” House Tax Committee Chair Aisha Gomez, DFL-Minneapolis, said in the story. “We have to be very careful in this moment.”
But we also “have to make sure fairness is not envy,” as Sen. Carla Nelson of Rochester said from the other side of the aisle. “We expect fair tax policy.”
Minnesotans do, too. With shared goals amongst our elected state officials, whether Republican or DFL, let the suddenly necessary compromising portion of the session begin.