Party politics at state capitol

Party interests come before the state’s interests in Minnesota Legislature.

State Rep. Kathy Tingelstad, after 12 years in the state House of Representatives, said she will not run for re-election. She will not run because she has lost the support of her party. Tingelstad, R-Andover, was one of six GOP representatives to vote with Democrats to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the recent transportation bill.

With the bill’s passage, the gas tax will increase by a nickel a gallon to fund road and bridge projects. Another three-and-a-half-cent per gallon surcharge is included to pay off road construction debt. Additionally, a rise in license tab fees on new cars and a quarter-cent increase to the sales tax in the metro area will help fund transit.

This money was needed. Minnesota’s transportation system has languished for years – this was the first state gas tax increase in two decades. With the nearly $1 billion state budget shortfall, the money for transportation was not going to come from merely readjusting state spending. Simply, Minnesotans needed to pay for the roads they drive on, the bridges they cross and the transit system to alleviate congestion and pollution on both. And deficit spending could not work as Minnesota would only go deeper into debt.

Understanding this, the six GOP representatives voted against their Party. As a result, Republican leadership positions in House committees were either forcefully taken away, as with Rep. Bud Heidgerken, R-Freeport, or voluntarily given up, as with Rep. Rod Hamilton, R- Mountain Lake.

Heidgerken was told by his Party he would lose his committee position if he did not fall in line. Others have lost or, like Tingelstad, will lose their Party’s endorsement for re-election.

The state GOP, less the six overriding members, put their Party’s interests before the interests of the people of Minnesota.

Minority Leader Marty Seifert of Marshall and Pawlenty have both said Minnesota voters will have the final say on the transportation bill come next election. And they should re-elect the remaining GOP members who voted to override the governor.