Gov. Dayton may need to compromise with Legislature

Guest Editorial – Don Heinzman
Governor Mark Dayton has given every indication he intends to work with
the new Republican majorities in both houses on measures that will
improve the economy and create jobs.

Don Heinzman
ECM Editorial Writer

Governor Mark Dayton has given every indication he intends to work with the new Republican majorities in both houses on measures that will improve the economy and create jobs.

During the campaign, he pointed out that as a U.S Senator, he worked with Republicans to pass legislation. He will use his experience as a senator, as a state auditor and as a state commission department head to break the log jam, so prominent in the last legislative session.

The message of the state and national elections is clear.  The public is tired of gridlock and wants to see action on major pieces of legislation. The newly-elected Republican House and Senate members misread the election, if they think the voters only want to cut spending and do not want to increase taxes.

By electing Republican majorities in both houses and a Democratic Governor, voters reversed the makeup of the last session that had

Democrats in control of the House and Senate and had a Republican governor.

Voters obviously want a different result from this session of the Legislature other than both houses proposing and the governor vetoing.

The margins in both houses are close so that over riding the governor’s veto will be difficult.

The makeup in the Senate is 37 Republicans and 30 Democrats, with 45 needed to over-ride the veto.  In the House, the lineup is 72 Republicans and 62 Democrats with 90 votes needed to overcome a veto.

Republican Senate and House members, to their credit, already have streamlined the process of government by cutting back the number of committees in which bills have to be heard.

The economy, jobs and the state budget will occupy most of their time and there must be give on both sides, without harming too much the quality of life, and particularly education.

Battle lines are drawn on the budget, which has a structural deficit of $6.2 billion. Dayton wants to increase the tax on incomes of the 10 percent of the wealthier Minnesotans, while Republican leaders are saying the budget can be balanced without raising taxes and only cutting spending.

That is rhetoric. Republicans know that in this biennium, which ends in June of 2011, the state’s general fund had 30.2 billion in revenues, but spent $34.4 billion.

They spent more, because they used federal stimulus money, federal Medicaid money and delayed paying school aids of $1.2 billion. 

According to Bill Marx, chief financial analyst for the House of Representatives, $3.4 billion is needed just to balance the books for this biennium, and another $2.8 billion is committed for such items as long-term debt and increases in personnel caused by enrollment changes, changes in special education prison enrollments and long-term care.

Marx says 40 percent of the budget is K-12 education, while health and human services is 28 to 30 percent, followed by higher education, local government aid and  property tax aids.  About 12 percent of the budget goes for state agencies, government, debt service and the University of Minnesota.

Gov. Dayton is proposing a $1 billion bonding bill which he says will bring about immediate job growth. The Republican leaders don’t want to see that big a bonding bill.

That bonding bill will be the first tug-of-war where there must be compromise. If there is constant gridlock this next session, look for voters to elect a different majority in 2012.

— Don Heinzman, former editor of the Star News in Elk River, is an editorial writer for ECM Publishers. His blog is posted on HometownSource.com.

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