Legislature is pushing the clock on timely, transparent policy debates
While there is not a two-year, $45-billion-plus budget to craft this year, the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton do have three major issues to resolve by the time the regular session ends May 21.
They are tax reform, a bonding bill and what to do with a projected $300 million surplus.
It’s time for legislators to craft proposed solutions over the next seven weeks in ways that all Minnesotans can follow.
In short, legislators need to do their job in a timely and transparent manner.
The first step in accomplishing that seemingly simple objective is for Republican legislative leaders to put forth their specific proposals regarding tax reform, a bonding bill and how to use the surplus.
Why? Because the DFL governor has done just that in the weeks since the session opened Feb. 20.
Now it’s time for Republicans to share their proposals with their bosses: the citizens of Minnesota.
Only after they do that can reasoned, civil and public discussion ensue — ideally not just in the halls of the Capitol, but all across Minnesota as residents follow along and even share their views with legislators.
That’s how the system is supposed to work. Yet as recent history shows, that’s not been the case. Too many recent sessions have seen specific proposals withheld until near the end of the session.
Worse yet, lacking time and robust (if any) input from peers, a handful of legislative leaders and the governor then have retreated behind closed doors, setting the terms in secret for bills that the Legislature is then asked (read: forced) to pass without thorough review, much less public debate.
Such brinksmanship needs to stop.
Look no further than the tax reform needed in the wake of federal tax changes.
Experts of all political stripes are stressing that Minnesota must make tax code changes or face some expensive bills at the end of 2018.
Dayton and DFLers are touting a priority to help to middle-class families. Powerful players like the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce want aid for businesses.
So what are Republican House and Senate leaders going to champion?
House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka need to let the public know as soon as possible. Then they need to move ideas through the legislative process with transparency.
The same goes for a bonding bill. Likewise with a plan for the surplus.
To their credit, legislators and Dayton already have addressed issues like legislative funding and the state’s licensing system, proving they can tackle tough issues in a timely and transparent manner.
Keep that trend going — and ditch the despicable end-of-session, late-night secret deals of late. It really should not be that hard. Be timely, be transparent and get these issues solved by May 21.
— St. Cloud Times