This is no time for a breakdown in legislative leadership in St. Paul. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we have seen so far from a divided Legislature that has been unable to pass a laundry …
This is no time for a breakdown in legislative leadership in St. Paul. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we have seen so far from a divided Legislature that has been unable to pass a laundry list of critical legislation, including a much-needed bonding bill.
The middle of a growing pandemic is probably the worst time for legislative dysfunction. Minnesotans are feeling both the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there’s plenty the Legislature can do to address it. Bonding bills, in particular, are a remarkably effective way to move the state’s economy forward. In the short term, the spending creates direct employment in the construction sector. In the mid-term, bonding dollars create demand for goods and services, which help a wide range of businesses. And, in the long term, bonding helps the state and its businesses operate more efficiently and effectively, yielding big benefits well into the future.
And that’s just the big picture. These projects also provide significant community impact, including for communities right here in the North Country. Local projects proposed for funding by Gov. Tim Walz include:
• $5.8 million for campground development at Lake Vermilion Soudan Underground Mine State Park.
• $2.8 million for the Ely Regional Trailhead Project visitors center serving the Taconite Trail, the Mesabi Trail, and the Prospector Loop ATV Trail.
• $3 million for the city of Tower’s water treatment facility.
• $6.6 million for the planned Crane Lake Voyageurs National Park visitor center, campground, boat ramp, and access road.
• $1 million for expansion of the Voyageur Country ATV Trail in northern St. Louis County.
• $2.6 million for a Vermilion Community College classroom design and building project.
These are valuable projects with a solid payback for our region. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that divided government, whether in Washington or in St. Paul, just doesn’t seem to work anymore.
There was a time when political leaders could set aside their differences for the interests of the state or the country. But the demonization of the opposition, which began under Newt Gingrich in the early 1990’s and has only grown worse ever since, has wiped away the sense of comity and cooperation that served as the foundation for progress. So, even in a period of state and national emergency, the two sides are unable to set aside differences for the common good.
In the case of Minnesota, it is the current divide between the DFL-led House and the GOP-dominated Senate that has become the impediment to sound governing. We’ve seen this dynamic at work before, and government shutdowns and repeated failures to pass critical legislation have been the result. This year is simply more of the same.
There was a time when America actually experienced some benefit from divided government, which helped to keep the excesses of either party from getting out of hand, without eliminating the ability of government to function. Divided government provides no such benefits in today’s America, where compromise is a dirty word. So, at a time when the state’s capital needs are significant, the economy needs a boost, and interest rates are at near zero, Minnesota can’t pass a bonding bill. That’s a sad state of affairs.
The last time Minnesota was able to really make progress was during two years of the Dayton administration, when then-Gov. Mark Dayton had a DFL-led Legislature to work with. Education and local government aid funding, which had been gutted by the Pawlenty administration, were restored. Taxes were made fairer. And we rebuilt state budget reserves, which has served Minnesota well during the current pandemic.
As Minnesotans look ahead to this fall’s elections, it’s worth asking whether they want a Legislature that can work productively with DFL Gov. Tim Walz, or whether they want to see the state unable to conduct the basic work of government— like improving public facilities through regular bonding. The choices we make do matter. If you see the value in passing a bonding bill at regular intervals to maintain the state’s public facilities and resources, vote like you mean it. As America demonstrated for generations, we can advance as a country when we have a government that works. But as America has demonstrated far too often in recent years, when government fails, America loses ground. We don’t have much more ground to lose.