The Free Press, Mankato, MN


July 7, 2013

Join interests to gain power

WHY IT MATTERS: While other parts of the state receive the largesse of the Legislature, our region continues to lose out due to lack of collaboration

Winning is in the eye of the beholder.

The 2012-13 Minnesota legislative session was seen by many observers as a marquee session for Democrats. They achieved their promised increase in taxes on the upper income, paid back the school shift debt, increased spending on education, found bipartisan support for Local Government Aid formula, enacted same sex marriage legislation and balanced the budget.

However, for all the wins, Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, said a personal failure for her was the inability to form a coalition of rural legislators to push through a bonding bill.

DFL Rep. Alice Hausman crafted an $800 million bonding bill with seeming bipartisan support that fell apart in the final hours of the session by five votes. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk was able to slip in a smaller proposal to fund the Capitol remodeling that quickly was loaded with special projects to attract certain Republican votes but missing Hausman’s bonding for higher education and house projects.

What also failed in the final stretch was bonding for the St. Peter Treatment Center and the Mankato civic center expansion, a project where this region just seems to continually be on the losing end.

Sheran told a regional gathering for a legislative roundup recently that while there were some laudable successes, “it was really disappointing” to lose yet again on the bonding issue. And she cites the lack of a strong regional coalition that holds together to present its case. “We want a coalition that is not caucus led or economic interest led. We need to build this interactive coalition of all north, south and metro area and getting to the size and content that survives a 60 percent majority."

Toward the end of the session, all eyes were on the silent success of the Democratic freshmen —including Rep. Clark Johnson, DFL-North Mankato — who pushed through a revision of the LGA that had wide geographical and bipartisan support.

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