The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 10, 2012

Our View: DFL comes in talking moderation

— In the euphoria following the Minnesota DFL regaining the majority of both houses, Gov. Mark Dayton said, “We will trade gridlock for progress.”

To DFL lawmakers and leaders that progress could mean income tax increases, more spending on education and possibly legalizing same sex marriage. But some DFL leaders started to tamp down the expectations.

Current Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said tax increases may not be on the agenda but possibly tax reform. That could include revisiting the long-standing homestead property tax credit, which was eliminated last session. And House Minority Leader Paul Thissen told Minnesota Public Radio that some of the newest members of the Legislature might have difficulty selling any idea of increasing taxes.

And there’s the new reality.

It is apparent to DFL leadership that this win is different from the support it received in the 1980s or even the 1990s. Some of members were elected this time because they promised a more bipartisan approach to solving problems.

Thissen said: “It’s going to be a very different Legislature.”

For instance, there is Sen.-elect Melisa Franzen of Edina, a DFLer who ran on a pro-business platform and message of compromise. She told MPR, “We are more moderate, we are more in touch with business than we’ve probably seen in the last few elections.” A Target Corp. attorney, Franzen said: “I’m middle of the road. I do support compromise.” One analysis said most of the new class of DFLers fit this profile.

This may be just legislative intentions of the newly elected, who typically feel attunded to what they heard from voters during the campaign. But soon there is a tug to be lock-step with party directives.

Abandoning voters for the party would be a shame.

The DFL has an opportunity to remake its image, both in the perception that it solves problems first by increasing taxes and that it favors its metro constituents.

Some Republicans are hoping the DFL will make the same mistake the GOP did — overreach, as it did with the constitutional amendments that took it off message of jobs and the economy. Because of that overreach, a whole slew of first-time Republicans lost their seniority.

DFL analyst Todd Rapp reportedly said “a lot of (newly elected lawmakers) heard at the door, ‘We want to figure out a way for you to reach across the aisle and work with the other party,’ and they feel a commitment to that.”

Our area legislators can help with that transition. A number of regional lawmakers retained their seats and they could provide mentoring to the newly elected. DFL Rep. Kathy Brynaert won re-election handily and continues to serve along with DFLers Sen. Kathy Sheran and Rep. Terry Morrow, who ran unopposed. They join GOP lawmakers Sen. Julie Rosen and Rep Bob Gunther, who were re-elected, as well as Rep. Tony Cornish, who was unopposed.

Now more than ever these regional lawmakers, working together, can help all outstate lawmakers by example and work for compromise as Rosen and Morrow did with the Vikings stadium. The greatest strength lawmakers can show getting ready for 2014 or 2016 is their proven ability to work across the aisle.