Legislative session ‘very disappointing’

Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, summed up the 2018 Legislative session best.

“I’m very disappointed,” he said during a town hall meeting in Marshall held to give area residents a report on the session.

There were some positive developments for southwest Minnesota. After using his veto pen quite a bit, Gov. Mark Dayton did sign a bill that included $1.5B for public construction projects. Of that funding, the Minnesota Emergency Response and Industrial Training Center in Marshall received $3.1 million to complete the driving training track.

And Southwest Minnesota State University will be receiving some funds out of the $45 million dedicated to Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement. But according to SMSU officials, they don’t expect to get enough funding to cover both top priorities for the campus: a link replacement between Charter Hall and Science and Math. The second is replacing the pool deck.

Gov. Dayton also signed a bonding bill that includes some funding for some much-needed expansions to U.S. Highway 14 and Minnesota Highway 23.

Dayton called that “a step forward.”

But there are plenty of areas where the state is not moving forward.

• The Legislature did vote to bring the state in line with changes to the federal tax code and included cuts to the corporate tax rate and reductions to the two lowest income brackets. However, Dayton vetoed the bill. Minnesotans are now facing the prospect of facing higher taxes and complications in filing taxes under the old federal rules.

• The Legislature did approve $58 million for school safety, but ignored Dayton’s request for $138 million in emergency funding for school facing major budget cuts. The result was the governor vetoing the spending bill.

• The Legislature approved $10 million in emergency funding to help fix the state’s new vehicle licensing system and later passed $9 million more help licensing office operators hurt by glitches. Another $20 million for fixes were included in the spending bill. Dayton did sign off on the $10 million, but vetoed the rest. Now some operators of license offices say they are in danger of closing.

All these disappointments add up for one big reason to pay attention to the upcoming governor’s race. Republican Jeff Johnson and Democrat Erin Murphy won the endorsements of their parties Saturday. And former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Rep. Tim Waltz are also in the mix.

Soon, these candidates will be visiting southwest Minnesota campaigning for votes. Residents in this region should take the time to listen to what they have to say. It’s vital that voters pick someone to live in the governor’s mansion who will be able to ignite some progress during the next legislative session.