New Year's resolutions for state government
By Phil Krinkie Taxpayers League of Minnesota As the daylight hours start to grow and the New Year approaches; it is time for Minnesotans to hunker down for yet another legislative tug-of-war. Yes, in just a few weeks lawmakers will return to St....
By Phil Krinkie
Taxpayers League of Minnesota
As the daylight hours start to grow and the New Year approaches; it is time for Minnesotans to hunker down for yet another legislative tug-of-war.
Yes, in just a few weeks lawmakers will return to St. Paul and start the 2012 legislative session.
By all predictions it should be a rather non-eventful affair. There is a $876 million budget surplus for the first time in years and most legislators are still weary from the marathon 2011 session that ended in July after a three week state government shutdown.
With the start of the legislative session on Jan. 24, there are two big unknowns: one, what will the new legislative boundaries look like when the judicial redistricting panel releases their plan on Feb. 21; and two, what will the budget forecast show when it is unveiled in late February? After these two events; there appears to be little on the horizon for a lot of potential controversy. But as in any gathering of state politicos, the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain.
So with the New Year just days away, it seems like a good time to suggest a few New Year's resolutions for our state's leaders.
It's only right to start with our governor.
Governor Dayton: For two years you have been on a tirade about taxing the rich; even recently stating that your biggest regret in 2011 was not succeeding in your quest to raise taxes. So Governor Dayton; how about a resolution to drop the words "tax increase." Just as Minnesota's economy is starting to brighten, don't dim the lights with higher taxes.
Speaker of the House, Representative Kurt Zellers: You just released a legislative schedule that would end the 2012 session in late April. Why not cut Minnesotans and your fellow lawmakers a break and "get out of Dodge" by Easter, ending the session by the first week of April. We would all like that.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk: Despite all the turmoil in the state Republican Party and in the Senate GOP caucus, you should resolve to stay focused on your current role and don't start thinking about becoming majority leader quite yet. Redistricting will favor the Republicans and President Obama's performance is making President Jimmy Carter look like a great leader.
The Ways and Means Committee Chairs, Representative Holberg and Senate Finance Chair Senator Robling: Hopefully you can both commit to one simple goal for the 2012 session; don't spend the surplus. The recent state budget forecast revealed a relatively small surplus of $876 million, but also showed a projected budget deficit of $1.3 billion for the next budget cycle; now is the time to practice spending restraint.
Senate Tax Chair Senator Ortman: Please resolve to keep asking the Vikings where they are going to come up with the $425 million they have pledged for a new stadium. In a committee hearing three weeks ago; you asked Vikings CFO, Steve Poppen to provide information on the sources for the teams $425 million and he had no response. Senator Ortman, please keep pressing for these details. With 60 percent of the proposed billion dollar project being paid for by the taxpayers; the public has the right to know how the Vikings are going to pay for their share.
Capitol Bonding Chairs, Representative Howes and Senator Senjem: Resolve to keep the bonding bill under $500 million. As part of the budget deal last July you agreed to put the state another half a billion dollars in debt. With debt payments being the fastest growing part of our budget; we don't need a pork laden bonding bill to add to our $6 billion state debt.
First Term Legislators - If you want to return to the Capitol in 2013; your key resolution for 2012 is simple: Don't take your voters for granted by thinking that because someone voted for you in 2010 that they will do the same in 2012. Voters change and so will your legislative district boundaries. I challenge you to engage your new constituents and be ready to explain what you accomplished during your first term in office.
Although not a state leader, no list of resolutions for 2012 would be complete without a suggestion for Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. Please be honest with Minnesotans and drop the talk of moving the Vikings to Los Angeles. No move can occur without the approval from 24 of the 32 NFL owners and that is not going to happen in 2012. Just sign a lease extension at the Metrodome and concentrate on improving the team's on-field performance.
In closing, I would like to thank all our elected officials for their hard work and service in 2011. May each of you have a happy and prosperous New Year.
Phil Krinkie, a former eight-term Republican state rep from Lino Lakes who chaired the House Tax Committee is president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently appointed Krinkie to the board of the MinnesotaStateColleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .