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A different tone at the Capitol

The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.

You’d think we were in a different state.

Last year, Gov. Mark Dayton warned state business leaders during the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce meeting that the state was under taxed and he was leading the charge on raising them. Those in attendance were silent and gave a comparatively cold shoulder when Dayton exited the hall. Later, Republicans — many of whom were freshmen — argued spending was the problem, raising taxes was a non-starter and they were in no mood to compromise.

The result was a government shutdown and an ill-advised temporary solution that both sides admit was merely kicking the can down the road. They did come together with an off-year $500 million bonding bill but delayed payments and unfulfilled “promises” left some local government agencies and property owners feeling they got the brunt of the solution.

This month, Dayton appeared before the same chamber group and there was no mention of a “tax on millionaires” and some acknowledgment that this last year was not a shining star for either party. One reporter present told his social media followers: “It was more olive branch than saber rattling. Big departure from last year.”

Occasional praises for Dayton’s leadership

And the chamber’s legislative priorities meeting that same day had occasional praises for Dayton’s leadership on some changes that advanced concerns by the business community — not that they advanced much but they did advance. And the pressure of a $5 billion budget deficit is no longer looming.

Such is the tone for this year, a year when all legislators are up for re-election and redistricting is making many lawmakers feel less daring.

And they come back understanding more how the legislative process works. One such freshman, Sen. Al DeKruif, R-Elysian, told our reporter he now knows “how the process works, how to put a bill together, how to do the proper research, how to have all your ducks in a row.”

More importantly, as pointed out by the “dean” of area legislators, Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont: “After you’ve been here a little while, you expand your mind and start seeing things from other (perspectives). It might not change your mind, but it might change how much you say about it.”

Window of opportunity

Amid the maturation of the legislative branch, this may just be a window of opportunity to get something substantial done on helping businesses with job creation. Nearly everyone has a plan for such economic development. The goal now will be to take the best of all ideas and push forward on some positive changes while so many lawmakers are “risk averse” and looking for some positive outcomes.

Republicans have said they like the goals laid out by Gov. Dayton but not how to pay for it. That’s a start. We need to work on compromise for the good of the state. That’s something we all should rally behind before the next election and another year of change.

This editorial is reprinted with permission.

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