Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Compromise, Don’t Fold

Extra! Extra! Extra!

Bill Prendergast:

Of Falwell, Dobson and Gay Penguins -- The title says it all!

By Christopher Truscott

If the point of a legislative session is to merely end on time, let’s try something new. Rather than spending months proposing bills and debating Minnesota’s future, let’s just shut things down after the governor gives his State of the State address. Pass his agenda and go home. It’s that easy.

But if the point of a legislative session is to actually govern and produce results for Minnesotans, let’s try another tactic: Don’t fold.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty is vetoing the future of the state. No to property tax relief. No to transportation funds. No to money for schools. While his handling of Minnesota’s affairs certainly gives DFLers plenty of political ammunition for 2008, governing means more than simply preparing for the next round of elections.

First: override the gas tax veto. Nobody wants to pay a nickel-a-gallon more at the pump, especially with gas prices where they are today, but we need the money to fund long-neglected transportation needs. We can’t run from the issue. It’s only going to get worse if lawmakers fail to act – and if Republicans who support transportation refuse to stand up to their party’s leader.

Do what’s right and get Minnesota moving again – literally and figuratively.

During the disastrous 2003 session the governor and the Republican-controlled House ran the table. The DFL-led Senate was outgunned and it caved, giving the GOP the votes needed to put Minnesota where it is today.

After two election cycles, the winds at the Capitol have changed. The DFL has the majority and it’s the governor’s turn to give something, which brings us to Step 2:

Rework the proposed income tax hike on families making more than $400,000 a year. The governor’s veto doesn’t mean give up, do a press conference and start dreaming up ideas for direct mail pieces. Nor does it mean suddenly decide to start enforcing tax laws, which should be done regardless of the budget situation.

It’s time to scale back the income tax proposal. The DFL can show it’s willing to compromise, not just play the same political games that don’t produce results and rightly foster widespread public apathy toward politicians.

Taxes were higher during the economic boom of the 1990s than they are today. The notion that taxing the richest among us will kill jobs is absurd and opinion polls show most Minnesotans understand that.

Since the governor is apparently so concerned about the burden being placed on Joe Mauer, the tax plan can be scaled back a bit. Then Pawlenty can either concede we need a new revenue stream to do what needs doing or admit he isn’t helping families making $50,000, $60,000 or $70,000 a year, but instead standing blindly with those making at least eight times more than a typical middle-class household.

The Legislature has stood strong for five months and can’t fold now, tomorrow, next week or next month. It’s time to compromise in order to deliver long-overdue results. Ceding the field entirely to the governor has failed Minnesota time and time again.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at Since special sessions have become so common there really isn’t anything special about them. They need a new name.

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