There are just 11 days remaining in the 2017 legislative session. At this time last year, I was not a member of the Legislature. I was simply someone watching the process from the outside. Frankly, I was alarmed at the gridlock and unwillingness to compromise. The stage was set for a frantic end to the session and the risk of not passing bonding, transportation, and other important bills. You may remember that this is exactly what happened when legislation, riddled with errors, was considered in the final minutes of the session without meaningful input from the public or even time to know what was in a bill before voting.
Based on events this week, I'm fearful that House Republicans are leading us down a similar path. Gov. Mark Dayton released his budget proposals earlier this year, and within the last months the Republicans in the House and Senate Majorities laid out theirs in a series of omnibus budget bills. Gov. Dayton and his commissioners have been reaching out to legislators to let them know his priorities as well as items to which he objects.
On Monday, in a spirit of compromise, the Governor presented a series of new offers to the legislative Republicans in an effort to move toward agreement on the state budget. He did so in an open, transparent manner and with the expectation that the GOP would respond with counteroffers and continue negotiations. Instead, the Republican leadership went behind closed doors and finalized their own partisan budget bills and brought them to House and Senate floors to be passed along party line votes. They did this with the knowledge that each of these bills is destined for a veto and would get us no closer to a resolution.
The work involved in compromising isn’t easy, and with 201 legislators involved, each with our own priorities, not everyone is going to be pleased with every aspect of the result. But just to walk away unwilling to even try to finish this hard work, as the majority party is doing, does a real disservice to Minnesotans.
There is still time to reverse course and pass a budget that upholds our Minnesota values. By moving forward with an eye on these values, like ensuring we have outstanding schools, affordable, accessible and quality health care, and a 21stcentury transportation system, we can deliver the results voters want. Making budget choices such as shortchanging students in a time of budget surplus – as does the House Majority’s budget - does not.
I remain hopeful that we can still get this important work done and get it done on time. To do this though is going to take a great deal of heavy lifting consisting not just of compromise, but a renewed commitment to the values which make Minnesota a wonderful state.
Please continue to reach out with your own thoughts. Your input and engagement is valuable.