The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 16, 2013

Time runs short for Legislature

St. Cloud Times
The Mankato Free Press

---- — Focus, Minnesota legislators, as you have many details left

So much for the theory that one party controlling Minnesota’s House, Senate and governor’s chair would mean fast work in St. Paul.

Exactly one week from the end of the 2013 regular session and a path to solving the most pressing legislative priorities remains unclear.

While it is good that Gov. Mark Dayton and House and Senate leaders announced their budget targets Sunday, many details still remain to be worked out, to say nothing of sharing those with voters before votes are taken and bills are signed into laws.

The framework for a budget deal announced Sunday seems built mostly on Dayton’s proposal. It’s good that it pays back the education funding shift, but it’s still troubling that the two-year plan spends about 7 percent more than the current biennium.

Yes, raising the income tax rate on the top 2 percent of Minnesotans will help, but that does not minimize the reality that spending outpaces state revenue projections without that increase. What happens in two more years if that happens again? Also, what about hundreds of millions of dollars in fee increases in surcharges that have been part of various plans? Are those still in this deal?

These are just a few of many questions legislators and the governor need to clarify as they work this week to complete a budget built upon Sunday’s targets.

One question still looms: Should the governor and legislators adopt a bonding bill? There is no need to do so this session, but if a bill does pass, it must fund the completion of expanding the River’s Edge Convention Center.

Lawmakers have yet to explain funding alternatives now that electronic gaming isn’t on track to generate the money needed to make the state’s share of payments. Money for the project must be spent before the 2014 session convenes. Don’t wait until then to solve an obvious problem.

Legislators have raised too many questions about the Mayo Clinic’s expansion in Rochester to warrant immediate passage of any assistance package. That shouldn’t be surprising. Such requests can take years to clear the Capitol.

Perhaps Dayton, key legislators and Mayo leaders can form a working group that meets after adjournment. Its efforts can be the first item on the 2014 agenda, or, if urgent, a special session could be called this summer or fall.

There are thousands of other proposals still alive in St. Paul. However, save the vast majority for 2014.