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ENEWS: Session and Budget Done, Now a Constitutional Crisis?

Date Published: 06/02/2017

Author: Dane Smith

Session and Budget Done, Now a Constitutional Crisis?

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton this week approved all major budget and tax bills passed by the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, averting a protracted deadlock and a state government shutdown. Now all eyes are on Dayton’s apparently unprecedented line-item veto of the Legislature’s own operating budget, in response to the Legislature’s similarly unusual threat to defund the Revenue Department as a negotiating gambit on the tax bill. Dayton says his response is a tactic to compel reconsideration of several policy items and tax cuts in the budget that he contends violated pre-agreements. The Star Tribune Editorial Board described the situation as “a new low in the increasingly no-holds-barred brawling between two parties that seem incapable of finding common ground.” Many observers agree that the new dispute represents a constitutional crisis. Meanwhile, Growth & Justice is continuing to analyze the final budget bills from a session that is being described as “productive” by some, but that we find to be disappointing in many respects. We know that the $650 million in tax cuts will put Minnesota in greater danger of larger shortfalls when the inevitable economic downturn occurs. Meanwhile, demands by business and local leaders for much more investment in transportation and transit were shortchanged. Greater Minnesota leaders seeking Local Government Aid restoration got only a fraction of their request. Lucrative new tax breaks were granted to some of our most affluent Minnesotans and the new budget insufficiently invests in our neglected human capital, our public physical infrastructure, and the racial disparity remediation that will lead to more inclusive economic growth. But there were some bright spots. We know we had an impact on legislation that will improve early childhood education options for low-income parents, continue funding for community education partnerships, fix aging water systems in rural Minnesota, and avert deep cuts in mass transit services. We also were encouraged by the expanding base of bipartisan statewide support for the legislative priorities in our Minnesota Rural Equity Project. We will persist in building a “One Minnesota” consensus on policies and investments that create a broader prosperity and advance economic, social, and racial justice in our state, from Ada to Zumbrota.

A More Important Divide Than Rural-Urban?

We highly recommend a recent  analysis by MinnPost reporter Peter Callaghan, headlined “Forget the Rural-Urban Divide.”  Callaghan shows how an anti-government ideology in the Legislature’s ranks has thwarted strong bipartisan local support, from both rural and urban civic and business leaders, for ample public investments in Local Government Aid, as well as transportation/transit infrastructure. The more important and growing divide, Callaghan suggests, is “between practical local leaders and ideologically conservative legislators.” We agree with the embracing “One Minnesota” outlook voiced in the article by Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht: “It’s really difficult to understand why Greater Minnesota legislators are not willing to (restore LGA to 2002 levels)” Albrecht said. “Mayors don’t buy into that urban-rural divide that people have been talking about. We support one Minnesota, where everyone counts.” Our work at Growth & Justice in coming months and years will embrace a “One Minnesota” approach to public policy and efforts to build a more shared prosperity in every Minnesota community.

You are Invited for June 5: Is a “Grand Bargain” on Poverty Possible?

The Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute are Washington think tanks that occupy center-left and center-right ideological territory, respectively. Recently they collaborated on a report entitled “Opportunity, Responsibility, and Security: A Consensus Plan for Reducing Poverty and Restoring the American Dream.” The lead authors, Ron Haskins and Robert Doar, will share with us why and how the collaboration came about, the specifics of a possible “grand bargain” on social welfare policy, and the prospects for progress in a divided nation. Here’s your link to register for this free event. It’s our 9th annual conversation commemorating the spirit of John Brandl, a former legislator and U of M professor known for seeking bipartisan common ground and consensus in public policy. Growth & Justice is a founding co-sponsor of the event, along with an ecumenical group of policy organizations. Growth & Justice President Dane Smith will be facilitating a Q&A discussion with the audience after Haskins and Doar speak.

Quote of the Week

“We have no intention of backing away from our efforts to address climate change in the food and agriculture supply chains around the world. And in fact this will inspire us to work even harder.”  David MacLennan, CEO of Minnesota agribusiness giant Cargill, one of many top corporate executives who disagreed with President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, in front-page Star Tribune story Friday June 2, “Minnesota will proceed with its own climate change strategy.”

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