West Bank Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, stood in the back of the House chamber Monday night to reflect on his first session in the Minnesota Legislature.
“It really is an amazing process,” he said, but added, “Hope is a little difficult to find these days in the Minnesota Legislature.”
During the Legislature’s five-month session, state lawmakers were able to pass one spending bill, and none of the University area’s three representatives voted for it.
Davnie, Rep. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights, and Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, consistently voted against the Republican-sponsored House spending bills this month.
“The one spending bill (the House) did pass was the early childhood budget, which has zero dollars added to it,” Davnie said. “This is going to be a mean and lean budget in the end.”
Both Kahn and McGuire received a record number of calls from constituents asking them to invest in state initiatives such as education, transportation and health care.
“My constituents are not asking for their money back,” Kahn said.
None of the three legislators know when they will return to the State Capitol to finish the work they started in January, but all blame Gov. Jesse Ventura for not working with the Legislature throughout the session.
“If he wants his budget, it really is his responsibility to work more with the legislators and not come at the very end and criticize,” McGuire said.
House and Senate leaders and the governor cannot agree on spending targets for legislative committees to allocate to state agencies, rendering state lawmakers unable to pass spending initiatives such as higher education.
Legislators said the governor will probably call a special session in late June, which Davnie said will be too late.
State agencies officially run out of money July 1, and a policy requiring three weeks advance notice for terminations means layoff notices will be sent to many state employees June 10.
“That’s a completely unnecessary expense,” Davnie said. “It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Kahn called the governor’s waffling on a special session and his concern for tax proposals rather than higher education, “completely unconscionable.”
Although state agencies are in limbo and legislators are unsure when to take summer vacations, the University’s three representatives said students should not lose hope.
McGuire urged students to contact legislators and the governor. Despite record calls from concerned University alumni and faculty, she has not heard from many students.
“I’m hitting my head against the wall on these issues,” McGuire said,”but you’ve got to keep working and sending the message.”
K.C. Howard welcomes comments at [email protected]