We are embarking on a legislative break, or as the legislators look at it, listening time.
Minnpost’s Doug Grow makes the observation that pretty much anyone who follows these things can tell you, the listening will only involve conversations with those that already agree with the caucus position. Minds don’t get changed. Votes don’t turn around.
But if you look deep enough and gather enough information you can find a glimmer of consensus on certain key issues:
1. Taxing the Rich. There is a majority view that if we need to raise revenue, this should constitute the start. Data proves that during recent tight economic times, the top 2-5% made the gains. The rest of us are running in place or worse. It is also the corporations that want the transit investments, the education investments, the road improvements. It only makes sense that corporations and the wealthier beneficiaries can contribute more.
2. Education Investment Increases. There aren’t many that foster a negative opinion on getting more for education. Even no tax Republicans tried to increase or at least hold harmless our education dollars last session. Democrats want to make serious increases this time around, and although there is some marginal disagreement on paying back the school shift (House wants it done 2 years sooner than Dayton & the Senate), there is consensus on getting permanent new money.
3. Gun Background Checks. Outside of NRA obstruction, you can also find a large majority view that background checks on gun purchases is a no brainer. The politics of this are way more complicated than they need to be: the NRA tries to confuse gun “registration” with universal background checks — an intentional point of confusion I would guess. But if you look at polling data, there is little doubt that background checks would end up being a safe yes vote in a “normal” world.
4. Gay Marriage. This is going to happen at some point. And here we may have the only issue where legislators are open to the changing landscape with a willingness to listen to constituents. The religious objection has been separated from the equal protection argument. Equal protection is beginning to dominate the discourse and it should. Only the hardest core objectors are left to obstruct at this point. This is a vote that needs to happen.
5. Transit Tax. Although business doesn’t want to utilize taxation to pay for transit, they do support transit building. And in order to meet future needs in a timely fashion, we need to up the ante and put together a better revenue stream. This would have been much less painful as part of Dayton’s comprehensive tax reform; but again, the business community has a Jekyll and Hyde approach to taxes and investment, so Governor Dayton has to go to plan B which is less than ideal. Still needed however; and if legislators are honest about it, the timing is right.
If you strip away the talking points and the partisan rhetoric, I think an honest assessment on these 5 policy issues make sense for the state of Minnesota. Good representation would mean looking seriously at all of this and moving on them for Minnesota’s future.
Is that too much to ask? I honestly don’t know.
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