Legislators at the State Capitol wrapped up a mostly unproductive
session Monday night, and now will most likely face a special session called by Gov. Jesse Ventura. A special session will be devoted to finishing work on the state budget, as well as deciding what to do with the state’s surplus. Lesser issues such as public financing for a Twins stadium have been shelved until next year. Many Minnesotans will be left feeling their representatives came back from work empty-handed, an understandable and justifiable reaction. However, the work the legislature could accomplish in a special session will be worth it, even if past deadline.
Fortunately, Ventura is ready to call a special session with a top priority of finalizing the tax bill. Despite all the hard work by legislators and lobbyists, the spending bills will be fittingly pushed into next session. There are some bills, though, that should be scrapped altogether, such as the Twins stadium proposal. It receives a great deal of publicity, yet the stadium issue is not an impending concern for many Minnesotans when there are statewide crises in affordable housing and education funding.
While the cuts in property tax that originated in the Senate are much friendlier toward farmers and homeowners, the Democrats and Republicans shouldn’t neglect education. Teachers in K-12 deserve a pay raise and many schools are in need of renovations. Both proposals coming out of the Legislature are more generous than the $114 million Ventura suggested. Additionally, the amount of money for higher education must also be agreed upon. Once again, the Senate has presented the more reasonable bill, providing the University with $138 million. However, nothing less than the full amount may prevent University President Mark Yudof from giving ominous warnings about the future of publicly financed higher education.
Walking out of the session with few tangible accomplishments should help legislators think long and hard about their priorities. The blame is clearly placed on the legislators themselves, who after five months accomplished little concerning the major spending bills. However, other factors, including the tripartisan nature of the Capitol, also contribute to the lack of productivity.
Optimism is key during upcoming weeks, and those involved need to be more flexible and willing to make compromises in the interests of the citizens in Minnesota. There is no more time for rhetorical questions and playing the blame game in regard to this year’s session; legislators must pull together and take care of the people’s business if they want to save some face during the special session.