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2020 session preview: Will the Minnesota Legislature get anything done this year?

Capitol staffers preparing the Minnesota Senate chambers on Monday.
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Capitol staffers preparing the Minnesota Senate chambers on Monday.

If you have a legislative session with nothing on the must-do list, how do you know when you’re finished?

The 2020 Minnesota Legislature is going to find out. With balanced budget in hand, with no crises to respond to, lawmakers have lots of things they would like to do on their agendas but very little that has to get done. And with the House and Senate still split between the DFL and the GOP and a critical election on the horizon in November, the session that convenes Tuesday could end with meager accomplishments.

“Really, there are no must-dos,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman said of the two-year Legislature. “The state continues to function. There is no government shutdown threatened if the Legislature doesn’t get any bills to the governor’s desk.”

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka echoed that basic concept. “This is not a budget year, so we really don’t need a supplemental spending bill,” the Nisswa-area Republican said.

Under the Minnesota Constitution, the Legislature has to adjourn by May 19, though nothing prevents lawmakers from doing so earlier. That probably won’t happen, however, as schedules and cutoffs are all in place to take advantage of every minute of the allotted time, whether lawmakers need it or not.

Given that even-year meetings of the Legislature are often called bonding sessions — named after the tradition of passing bills financing state and local construction projects that traditionally get passed during those sessions — both leaders say they’d like to get a bonding bill done, even if failure to do so wouldn’t put the state into constitutional crisis.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
House Speaker Melissa Hortman
But state and local governments shouldn’t yet anticipate having their construction dreams met in full. There is a significant difference between the $2.6 billion bonding proposal of Gov. Tim Walz and the $1 billion range that Gazelka has said he would be more comfortable with. The difference translates into dozens and dozens of state and local projects.

“There is good dialogue between the governor, myself and the speaker,” Gazelka said. “We’ll make sure that some of the key things get done this year.”

Walz’s top goal of the session is to persuade the House and Senate to vote for something closer to his $2.6 billion plan. “I hope the Legislature does their work,” he said. “Hold hearings. Bring in the mayors. Talk to people about what these projects are. Don’t come with an ideologically rigid place that does not match up with the facts. That is not the place where Minnesotans and their elected leaders are.”

It’s not about too much or too little,” Walz said of his proposal. “It’s the right amount and what you get for it. It’s about the projects that are in this bill, not the overall number.” 

Because most of the borrowing requires 60 percent votes of both houses, the minority parties in each have power that is denied them on most other issues. Last May, it was the reluctance of House Republicans to go along that blocked a smaller bonding bill during the one-day special session. So making sure all parts of the state see something in a bonding bill is important, not only for Walz’s ability to tout his “One Minnesota” theme, but also to gather the votes needed to win passage. 

What to do with the surplus? 

The surplus could be another area where the House and Senate have a lot of ideas, even if they don’t have the same ideas. 

The House DFL has decided to push for increasing support for child care grants and early childhood education. But because there is little appetite for changing the two-year operating budget adopted last May, Hortman has proposed one-time grants that wouldn’t be embedded in the budget and wouldn’t be assured of on-going funding. 

“You’re only 3 once,” she has been saying in reference to the idea that even if the grants don’t continue, the 3-year-olds who enrolled in the program will carry the benefits through their lives.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
MinnPost file photo by Briana Bierschbach
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
For its part, the Senate GOP would like to consider tax cuts. Last year, both parties agreed on a lower-income tax-rate cut. This year, Gazelka would like to completely eliminate an income tax on Social Security benefits. The state does exempt some retirement income for lower-income taxpayers but not all.

Senate DFLers also want to send additional money to school districts for the hiring of more counselors, and both House and Senate DFLers may propose one-time grants to public housing authorities to retrofit high-rise buildings with sprinklers. That is in response to the Nov. 25 fire that killed five residents of the Cedar High Apartments in Minneapolis.

Walz has been cautious about spending the surplus, and said he will propose a small supplemental budget that makes changes to the two-year plan adopted after contentious negotiations last spring. He has endorsed allocating additional money to build out rural broadband connections under a state program to subsidize private cable providers who have found it uneconomical to make the last-mile connections in sparsely populated areas of the state.

Can they agree on anything else?

Hortman refers to the 2020 session as “Chapter 2,” a continuation of the story that began one year ago. But among the themes established in that chapter was a DFL House and a GOP Senate passing bills that had little chance of getting through the other chamber.

Yet there were some areas of agreement in 2019, the most significant being the two-year, $48.3 billion budget deal. Legislative leaders also agreed on a plan to fix the state vehicle licensing system; new regulations on pharmacy benefit managers; a tax on opioid makers to help pay for the addiction crisis; and a requirement for hands-free cellphone use in cars.

There might be similar areas of agreement this session. Both parties have plans to address increased crime on Twin Cities transit buses and trains. The approaches are different, however, with DFLers emphasizing using transit ambassadors to connect riders with social services and de-escalate conflicts while the GOP is looking at a more law enforcement-focused response. Compromise is possible, however, and the Met Council is eager to get help to respond to the problem.

Also possible: a plan to help diabetics who can’t afford insulin, though a deal has so far confounded advocates, the governor and a bipartisan work group, with each now accusing others of preventing an agreement. If public statements of desire are to be believed, however, a plan could be reached.

Both parties also have clean energy agendas, but they look so different from each other that compromise is less likely than it might appear.

Gov. Tim Walz
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Gov. Tim Walz
And there is some agreement on how to respond to management and spending oversight at the state Department of Human Services. The agency, the state’s largest, has had three leaders in one year, while a series of overpayments for opioid treatment to tribal governments and counties highlighted failures in its management systems.

Walz has said he is open to breaking the department into two agencies, something that has support among many in the Legislature. But a clearer consensus is emerging on ordering an outside audit of the agency to look at both its performance and finances. 

After House Deputy Minority Leader Anne Neu of North Branch said last week she didn’t want to make any decisions about the agency until they knew from the audit what the issues were, Hortman agreed. “This is apparently our Kumbaya moment of the gathering,” she said during a pre-session forum with Walz and legislative leaders, adding that rushing to break up DHS might simply allow the Legislature to look “busy” but might not be the best approach.  

File under ‘no chance’

Divided government means there must be bipartisan agreement for bills to pass. That knowledge hasn’t stopped both majorities from considering and passing bills that have no chance in the other chamber. 

One reason is because they set their own agendas, based on their own politics and ideologies, and want to express them in legislation. The other reason is each has constituent groups that expect to see their issues advance. The House DFL majority calls its agenda “2020 Minnesota Values Plan”; the Senate GOP went with “Vision 2020.”

As part of their plan, DFLers will push again for two gun safety bills. One would require criminal background checks for more gun purchases. The other would set up a system for law enforcement to seek a court order to remove guns from those deemed a danger to others or themselves. The Senate GOP majority opposes both bills, and there are DFLers who aren’t keen on taking votes on those measures either.

For the GOP, Gazelka recently posted a Facebook video calling for passage of a law to require photo identification by voters, and has raised concerns over voter fraud that have become national GOP issues. State voters rejected such a program in a public vote eight years ago, causing DFL Rep. John Lesch to Tweet: “2012 called. They want their issues back.”

DFLers are also supporting a bill being pushed by Secretary of State Steve Simon to amend the new presidential primary to restrict how political parties use voter data collected by county elections officials. Senate GOP leaders have said they don’t want to change rules in the midst of the election.

House DFL leadership also is pushing a recreational marijuana bill, though it has stopped short of committing to a floor vote on the issue this session. Again, the Senate GOP isn’t interested. The same may be true of another run by the House DFL at a paid family leave program that would assess employers and employees to provide for some income while parents take leave for newborns or to care for family members.

And Gazelka wants to push again for tax credits for donations to opportunity scholarships to private K-12 schools. Walz and House DFLers are not in support of the measure. Gazelka’s caucus also will have bills to allow importation of prescription drugs from Canada. 

Operating with any eye toward the 2020 election

How do you separate the 2020 session from the 2020 election? 

You can’t. So perhaps it’s better to view every act and statement and vote as being done with a view toward the November general election, or — in the case of DFLers getting challenged from their left — with a view toward the August state primary. 

Both the DFL and the GOP preface nearly everything they propose as being in step with the real people of the state — and the other side being out of step. As in: Look what we could pass if we controlled the entire Legislature — and look what we prevented from happening by controlling at least one chamber.

“Our ideologies are so different that we’ll be beating the crap out of them — on health care, on issues like prioritizing health insurance profits and (putting) pharmaceutical company profits over the health of Minnesotan,” said Hortman. “And they’ll be beating the crap out of us — about thinking that our proposals are unrealistically expensive to provide health care to more Minnesotans.

“It doesn’t hurt either one of our arguments going into the next election to actually get something done on insulin. We can have compromises and productive agreements and we’ll have plenty to disagree about in the next election.”

Gazelka has to hold the Senate in 2020 as a stopgap to DFLers gaining complete control of the Legislature — and the 2021 redistricting process. While the GOP has a few vulnerable state senators in the Twin Cities suburbs, the path to keeping control of the chamber might run through Greater Minnesota, especially the Iron Range.

Shortly after Sen. Susan Kent of Woodbury toppled longtime Senate DFL leader Tom Bakk, of Cook, in a leadership fight earlier this month, Gazelka pounced in a Facebook video. “I’ve got your back up on the Range, Republicans have your back up on the Range,” he said. “The things that you hold dear on the Range are not held dear by the Democrats who are in control in the Twin Cities.”

Hortman said she wanted to “put the kibosh” on the notion that only Greater Minnesota legislators can work for Greater Minnesota issues. “Although we do have great legislators from Greater Minnesota … we all are committed to all Minnesotans,” she said. 

To demonstrate that, Hortman reminded reporters that though she represents a Minneapolis suburb, she was named the Minnesota Milk Producers’ legislator of the year.

Comments (45)

  1. Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/11/2020 - 10:58 am.

    Open the session at 8am then close it at 9am and go home until January. No more bonding or debt. No more taxing no more spending. No more regulation or green energy nonsense either. And no gun control bills. Nothing needs to get done. Now If they want to talk about cutting spending, lowering taxes and reducing regulation then we can talk.

    • Submitted by Eric House on 02/11/2020 - 11:42 am.

      Raise taxes, fix our roads & infrastructure. Cut back on the love affair the GOP has with “Moar guns!” and burning the environment to the ground. put controls on corporations and business that seem to spend more effort taking advantage of loopholes than being good citizens.

    • Submitted by Daniel Walker on 02/11/2020 - 11:59 am.

      I’ll send the diabetics who are dying because they can’t afford their insulin over to your house, okay? So you can cut them a check, right?

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/11/2020 - 12:20 pm.

        Send them to Keith Ellison’s office. He has legal authority to enforce MN anti trust laws which would drop insulin prices by 80% or more overnight IF he bothered to enforce the laws.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/11/2020 - 01:12 pm.

          Sure! Send them over this afternoon, and the problem will be solved by tomorrow!

          Do you have the first idea of how long it takes to pursue an antitrust suit? What are you going to tell the people who can’t afford insulin? “Just wait a few more years – we may be able to get them to settle by then!”

          • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/11/2020 - 02:49 pm.

            Irrelevant. More legislation isn’t going to fix the problem. You keep refusing to hold politicians and AGs accountable for enforcing the laws. Trump ran on doing what I suggest for all of healthcare but that plank vanished from his platform the night he won the election. And you wonder why healthcare, medicines and insurance are so expensive in the US.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/11/2020 - 03:17 pm.

              No, entirely relevant. Lawsuits are a remarkably inefficient way of making policy. Or perhaps you think that insulin manufacturers wouldn’t just run out the clock until everyone just goes away? If so, why isn’t the Trump regime doing anything about enforcing the antitrust laws? I know, I know, as if Trump gives a rip about price-gouging. Consider that suggestion comic relief.

              “Trump ran on doing what I suggest for all of healthcare but that plank vanished from his platform the night he won the election.”

              So kvetch about him instead of Keith Ellison. Trump talked about doing a lot of things, but he is a serial liar. Believing him is your misstep.

              In any event, I strongly believe you do not know how pharmaceuticals – especially insulin – are marketed. Different companies hold patents on different types of insulin. Those different types are not interchangeable, so the prospect of competition is minimal. No, antitrust laws cannot invalidate a patent.

              • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/11/2020 - 08:50 pm.

                Go read the MN statutes on anti trust. Go read the Sherman and Clayton acts, McCarren-Ferguson, Robinson-Patman. This isn’t about patents.. it’s about preventing competition and price fixing. Insulin was patented in 1923. You can buy it in Europe for about 10 to 20 dollars for a pen. However, the govt forbids importation because the Pharmas have gotten laws passed… another attempt at price fixing.

                If just 1 state AG would indict any of these people, the prices would drop within days because no one else would want to be indicted.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/12/2020 - 09:28 am.

                  The McCarran-Ferguson Act exempts insurance companies from most federal regulation, including antitrust laws. You need to choose better internet sources.

                  Europe has government sponsored health care, and the government has the power to negotiate drug prices.

                  Holding a patent is not an antitrust violation. Ditto lobbying the government for favorable laws, even if those laws have the effect of setting higher prices.

              • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/12/2020 - 06:24 am.

                I’d also like to add that Ellison has been in office for over 2 years… that’s a long time to get a case moving forward in the court system. Swanson was in that office for 12 years before him, she could have enforced MN’s anti trust laws but didn’t either. Too many people are making excuses for elected officials not enforcing existing laws. Of course the reason none of them have enforced those laws (esp at the federal level) is because doing so would cause the US economy to crash into a depression as about 15% of GDP would be wiped out temporarily. That money though would be moved to other areas of the economy and we would quickly recover.. but then we’d have affordable healthcare again (roughly 4% of GDP instead of 20%)

                You keep excusing them for not prosecuting the theft of ~$25 a day from every single person in this nation (3+ trillion a year).

    • Submitted by Robert Ahles on 02/11/2020 - 12:04 pm.

      And you probably don’t want anyone to address the high cost of insulin here in Minnesota only because you don’t need it right now! Follow the lead of the NRA and do absolutely nothing about gun violence. You are probably fine with no background checks and assault rilfes with 100 round magazines. Yours is such a Republican response of cutting taxes and spending for the needy.

      • Submitted by Andy Briebart on 02/11/2020 - 12:33 pm.

        NRA really doesn’t so a lot of lobbying at the capitol. The guy that covers MN covers 3-4 more states, so he only has so much time to at the capitol.

        MN Gun Owners Caucus should be your real boogyman. They do all the ground work and are truly grass roots. No money from Bloomberg or the gun industry. I know that ruins your narrative, but you should know more about what is really happening.

        And by the way, Rosseu county just declared themselves a 2A sanctuary county.

        • Submitted by Robert Ahles on 02/11/2020 - 01:25 pm.

          Do Second Amendment gun rights apply to children or the mentally ill? When the Second Amendment was adopted were there semi-automatic rifles with 30 or 100 round magazines?

          Hunters have used semi-automatic rifles to hunt here in Minnesota and nationally for many, many years. What you now call an “assault rifle” looks kind of scary but it probably does not shoot any faster than other semi-automatic hunting rifles that have been around for years.

          Wisconsin has recently changed hunting regulations to allow anyone to hunt regardless of age. I personally would not feel safe in the woods with young children carrying and firing any type of weapon. For me to feel safe I would like to know that hunting regulations address training (firearm safety courses) and probably maturity too as I’d get nervous hunting in the same woods with a five or seven year-old.

          Most responsible hunters shouldn’t need more than one or two shots to kill a big game animal or even a coyote or fox. As a hunter, and not an NRA member, I would support regulations limiting the size of magazines to four or five rounds as there really is no need for 10 to 30 round magazines for either hunters or target shooters. Actually you can hunt waterfowl in Minnesota with a semi-automatic shotgun but you are limited to three rounds in the gun at any one time.

          I would also support legislation banning bump stocks or any other method or device which could convert a semi-automatic rifle into a fully automatic weapon, or machine gun.

          Most importantly I would hope our lawmakers would expand regulations relating to background checks and waiting periods.

          I would not support legislation which would increase the age from 18 to 21 to allow a person to buy a rifle. We have many young people hunting in the fields and woods of Minnesota who are much younger than 18. For many of the youth it is a source of pride to be able to save enough money and buy their own rifle or shotgun. I was able to buy my first shotgun at the age of 12 from money I saved from my paper route. I also served in Vietnam with young men that were 18, 19, and 21 years old and if we can expect them to use these weapons in combat then we should allow them to own other types of rifles when they return home, even if they are under the age of 21.

          I have been upset with the NRA for many years as it has absolutely no plans to address gun safety here in the Country that I love. I think twice, many more, when considering a vote for someone that is accepting contributions from the NRA or those that can’t accept some common sense gun regulations.

          • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/11/2020 - 03:03 pm.

            Thomas Jefferson had a semi auto rifle before the Constitution was ratified. So yes, they existed even back then. The 2nd amendment isn’t about hunting. It’s about protecting yourself. It doesn’t restrict how you defend yourself (because the Framers knew guns would evolve).

            Kids under 18 are the responsibility of their parents and don’t necessarily have the right to own or carry guns just like we don’t allow them to enter into contracts or make other major decisions because they aren’t mature enough to know better.

            As for the mentally ill, they are the responsibility of whoever is taking care of their needs. If no such person exists and someone is deemed a threat to themselves or others by a licensed psychiatrist , then they should be put in a mental health institution so they can’t harm others. Otherwise they have the same rights as you and I which includes owning guns.

            If you worry about kids hunting, hunt on your own land or find land where there are no kids hunting. As it is, there are very few cases of a kid shooting anyone while hunting so you’re pretty safe in the woods.

            Bump stocks… they are a joke but should be legal to own. The govt has no legal authority to ban you from owning an object. If you want to waste you money on ammo have at it. If you use it to hurt people then you can go to prison like we do with all other criminals. You can also accomplish the same result with your thumb and a belt loop etc.

            As for background checks, almost no one is ever prosecuted for failing one and the number of gun violence instances of someone that went thru one is tiny. The extreme majority of gun violence is gangs and criminals that do not get background checks and never will. They buy their guns on the streets illegally. All you’re doing by expanding background checks is making criminals out of law abiding citizens and making it harder for them to defend themselves and exercise their rights.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/11/2020 - 03:19 pm.

              “The govt has no legal authority to ban you from owning an object.”

              Let’s see your legal authority for that proposition. There are a lot of people with felony convictions for various types of possession who are keen to know.

              • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/11/2020 - 08:52 pm.

                Read this: There isn’t a single line or word in there that gives the government the authority or power to ban any product or substance. State government would be a different story. But there is no federal authority for it.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/12/2020 - 09:34 am.

                  The federal government has police powers that give it the authority to act within the framework of the Constitution. While garden-variety possession may be merely a state crime,* it is not a federal crime unless the defendant is on federal property. Drug possession in a national park or on a military base (even by civilians) is illegal.

                  The federal government may still ban the transportation or sale of bump stocks in interstate commerce, which is what a Congress with the stones to stand up to the gun fetish lobby would do.

                  *States are also “[t]he govt.” If that was what you meant, you should have said so.

            • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/11/2020 - 06:31 pm.

              You know Bob you are a funny guy! You made me look. “While the detachable air reservoir was capable of around 30 shots, it took nearly 1,500 strokes of a hand pump to fill those reservoirs”

              Just a 2nd thought: Since Bazookas are permitted-illegal in civilian hands, does that mean only bad guys have bazooka’s? Same can be said for hand grenades, Anti tank weapons, tanks, howitzers nuclear warheads, Surface to air Missiles. Funny how things get really strange down that rabbit hole.

              • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/12/2020 - 06:41 am.

                That canard is easily debunked. Things like jet planes, nuclear bombs etc are not used by your regular army soldiers (nor can they be used for self defense). Although you could try finding a picture of a soldier carrying an F-16 into battle on his back if you want.

                If you read the documents written by the Framers, they never intended for a standing army. That’s why the Constitution says Congress can
                “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years”. Notice the 2 years part? Because the “army” was the citizens ie Militia. Even back then private citizens had canons and other weapons commonly used by individual soldiers in war. So hand held rocket launchers (bazookas) and hand grenades and other weapons used by the average infantry soldier were meant to be in the hands of the citizens right from the start.

                Thomas Jefferson said it best: “There are instruments so dangerous to the rights of the nation, and which place them so totally at the mercy of their governors, that those governors, whether legislative or executive, should be restrained from keeping such instruments on foot, but in well-defined cases. Such an instrument is a standing army.”
                Thomas Jefferson to David Humphreys, 1789, 549

                Or maybe James Madison: ““A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.” – James Madison, Father of the Constitution

                • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/12/2020 - 09:00 am.

                  BB, do you even read what you write? “The govt has no legal authority to ban you from owning an object” So now, Bazookas etc are not objects?
                  “Things like jet planes, nuclear bombs etc are not used by your regular army soldiers (nor can they be used for self defense).” So our US Military doesn’t use any of this stuff for defensive purposes?
                  “If you read the documents written by the Framers, they never intended for a standing army.” Perhaps you want to point that out, best I found was should it be state or federal Federalist paper # 46. and then there is this: “Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 8: Gives Congress the power to declare war and raise and support the armed forces.” Talk about canards, might want to check your sources!

                  • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/12/2020 - 08:41 pm.

                    Fighter jets, nuclear bombs etc are not covered by the 2nd Amendment. The 2nd Amendment only covers what the militia (aka army soldier) would carry/use in battle. The 2nd was written to keep those arms and weapons in the hands of the civilians since they did not allow for a standing army (article 1 section 8 as I quoted). Things like hand grenades, “bazookas”, machine guns et al are covered by the 2nd and per the Framers who wrote the Constitution, allowed in the hands of citizens without any regulations (shall not be infringed). Cambridge dictionary for infringe: to act in a way that is against a law or that limits someone’s rights or freedom. Background checks, permits etc all limit a person’s rights and are all infringements. They impede you ability to exercise your natural right to own guns.

                    The federal government cannot legally ban you from owning a fighter jet, tank, helicopter etc because there is no enumerated power that gives them that authority. In fact, right now you can own a tank or helicopter if you can afford it (even though they have restrictions on tanks which they shouldn’t have). Again, article 1 section 18 lists the enumerated powers and those are the ONLY powers the Federal Government has (Constitutionally). Everything else is left to the States and People.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/12/2020 - 12:52 pm.

                  “If you read the documents written by the Framers, they never intended for a standing army.”

                  You really need to check your sources better, hombre. The United States Army was established by the Congress of the Confederation in 1784, and the Army has existed continuously since then (albeit in varying sizes).

                  One has to think that, if the Founders did not want a standing army, they would have said so when they adopted the Constitution.

          • Submitted by Andy Briebart on 02/11/2020 - 03:37 pm.

            The three most common deer rounds, the .308 30-30, and 30-06 are more powerful than the bullet out of a scary black gun, 223/5.56.

            Just discussed in the House today.

            “Acocrding to the latest report from the Sentencing Guidelines Comission, which is being presented in the House Public Safety Committee right now, out of 1274 prosecutions of felons in possession of firearms, only 767 were convicted. From those who were convicted, only 458 get the MANDATORY minimum sentence.

            This means that over 41% of the time, these armed, convicted felons are back on the street much faster than our statutes demand, sometimes in as little as a few months.”

            • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/16/2020 - 06:35 pm.

              Not to get crosswise, but if they aren’t guilty they aren’t guilty, this isn’t like Trump land, where the jury is already stacked for you, and witness’s and evidence are not allowed.

    • Submitted by Josh Lease on 02/11/2020 - 02:19 pm.

      what a staggeringly ignorant suggestion. Skipping a bonding year is beyond absurd. Even gazelka and daudt know that the long term health of our state relies on the infrastructure projects bonding provides and they’re two of the biggest head in the sand fools in the legislature.

      We’re putting or state at risk for the lean times by not investing now. We’ve been underfunding bonding (by any non-partisan analysis) for years because people decided $1B was a magic number, and now you’re suggesting skipping it completely because…reasons? You hate government? You’re so afraid someone else might benefit more than you from it?

      Foolishness. Utter foolishness.

  2. Submitted by George Beck on 02/11/2020 - 11:31 am.

    It’s just sad to hear legislative leaders say that nothing needs to get done this session when legislation supported by the great majority of Minnesotans, such as redistricting reform, could be enacted.

  3. Submitted by Andy Briebart on 02/11/2020 - 11:41 am.

    Open and close. Shut it down. Send them home.

    It’s a PROJECTED surplus. Not an ACTUAL surplus.

  4. Submitted by Phyllis Kahn on 02/11/2020 - 02:40 pm.

    Part of the surplus issue is bad arithmetic. In elation isa counted in the input but not in the output. An unbalanced equation.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/11/2020 - 06:52 pm.

    You know we see all this commentary, but rarely see “vision” . Comment, shut down light rail project! Ok maybe, but its no surprise to any of us folks in the metro that 35 W/E can’t be widened again with out spending one hell of a boat load of dough, Same could be said for 494, 694, 94, 62, 100, 212, 36 and on and on, other answer, limit growth in the cities? That doesn’t sound very appealing or economically feasible. Sounds like something 100 or so years ago, we don’t need freeways, just keep redoing those dirt roads, or maybe 70-80 years ago, why are we spending so much money on those airports! Put the money into roads! Seems like some folks can accept the future and invest in it while others can only look backward, and live in the what was, not the what can or will be.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/12/2020 - 07:10 am.

      While expanding said roads would be expensive now, it would be a 1 time big cost (with smaller maint. costs going forward). Unlike light rail, which costs taxpayers millions every single year into perpetuity. Hiawatha alone costs what, 20 million a year to run (best estimate I’ve found so far).. with only 1/3 of that covered by fares? That’s just a 12 mile run. At the very least the fares should be raised so the trains pay for their own operating costs.. but I guess then no one could afford to ride them right?

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/12/2020 - 08:42 am.

        Say what, one time cost? Sorry, you don’t live in reality, 35W has been on a 10 year rehab/widening is now what 5 lanes, it was originally built back in the late 60’s and when the suburbs keep growing, traffic will fill it up further. Have you traveled 35 Forest lake? Been working on adding more lanes up there, Are you suggesting the gas tax pays for all the road and bridge construction? Seems the problem is you don’t have any other tools in your tool box besides roads! Since you like looking backward so much, You know 94-394 (12) used to be a double lane highways, why did they get probably billion $ make overs to turn them into multi lane interstate. The roads were already built! So where does your statement:” While expanding said roads would be expensive now, it would be a 1 time big cost (with smaller maint. costs going forward)”
        Last check, rail lines don’t have yearly pot hole problems or heaving concrete!

        • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/12/2020 - 08:55 pm.

          Rail lines have daily expenses … the Hiawatha line (12 miles) alone costs somewhere in the 20 million a year range to run… only about 1/3 of that is covered by fares. So taxpayers are paying about 12 million EVERY year just to keep that thing running. Show me ANY 12 mile stretch of road in MN that requires 1 million dollars per mile per year to maintain (you won’t find one). Let’s not forget, it cost about 775 million to build that thing in the first place too. Building and maintaining roads overall is cheaper that light rail in both cases ( and I’m not even factoring in the roughly 3 million per rail car for replacement).

          Again, long time poor planning led to the road mess. 25 years ago I was complaining to anyone that would listen that 494/694/94 all should have been double or triple the number of lanes. And that 94 west of Maple Grove all the way to Monticello should have been 6 lanes total at least. MNDoT only widens the roads for what it should have been 10 years ago.. not 10 years from now. When they recently widened 494 on the west side, they only made it an 8 lane total road… it should have been 10 or 12 .. they have the traffic data .. they know what it’s like yet they don’t plan ahead.

          Make the big expenditure right now and make the roads wider than they currently need to be so that 10 or 20 years from now they will still be able to handle the amount of traffic on them. Yes, it’s a big investment right now… but the maintenance after that is quite small compared to the costs of light rail.

          Taxpayers should not be subsidizing and paying for a small subset of the population to ride trains for basically free. The fares should be raised until they cover the operating costs of the rail line or shut them down forever and divert that money to Buses and roads where it would be more useful.

          • Submitted by Tom Crain on 02/13/2020 - 09:17 pm.

            Do you live in the metro? It would seem you do not. The Blue line had 11M riders in 2018. Imagine moving all those riders to cars and buses. You cannot build roads to handle that volume with any efficiency. Ask anyone using the Hiawatha or other roads in the corridor and they’ll tell you a $1 per rider subsidy is a bargain

          • Submitted by Dave Carlson on 02/14/2020 - 12:16 pm.

            Roads ARE heavily subsidized by all taxpayers. Where are the billions of $ coming from to widen all the metro freeways you’d like to see to 12 lanes wide? Certainly not from increasing the gas tax, which hasn’t been raised in decades even though construction costs have accelerated, and your Republican cronies are dead set against that anyway. Maybe all “freeways” shouldn’t be free, they should be toll roads, much like the fares charged to transit users. Metro areas need balanced transpiration systems, not just overbuilt highways for mostly single-occupant vehicles that swallow up adjacent homes and businesses and cause significant pollution and noise.

          • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/14/2020 - 04:49 pm.

            BB: Where do you get your numbers from? Google can’t seem to find them! First you say roads are the answer and then you say we have poor road planning, which is it? Even bad road planning leads to good roads? DMV are are bunch of idiots becaseu they didn’t have a perfect crystal ball 50-60-70 years ago? Sounds just like a Trumpy, everyone in the world is a loser/idiot/moron but you!

          • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/15/2020 - 04:06 pm.

            PS: Ridership on the METRO Blue and Green light rail lines was up 5 percent, to 25 million rides. Light rail accounts for just over one-quarter of all transit rides in the region. METRO Green Line, between Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul: 13.8 million, up 5 percent from year before.
            Minnesota 2018 Population: ~ 5.611 Million, so which small segment are you talking about? You know I can basically throw a rock out my back door and hit more people than the entire population of Cook, Lake, St. Louis counties, that’s the entire arrow head region, Not to mention they were $8M short of revenue, that’s less than 2% a far cry form your 33%. Now how many $BIL did we not have to spend on roads because of light rail? You know facts and truth will set you free unless you prefer the: “You don’t know that you don’t know and don’t want to know that you don’t know route”! Or perhaps its the “ignorance is bliss”. We all get to chose.

  6. Submitted by Gerry Anderson on 02/12/2020 - 08:03 am.

    Waltz vision includes a great number of feel good projects. Read the list.

    I would like to see the government do what is supposed to. Public good. Roads, water, power and other infrastructure. On the community projects, I think getting the locals to get skin in the game is important. Matching funds. Not just handouts.

  7. Submitted by Andy Briebart on 02/12/2020 - 08:15 am.

    Now I hear they want to change the state flag! OMG.

    Bond and GO HOME !

  8. Submitted by george woytnowitz on 02/12/2020 - 08:16 am.

    Why anyone pays any attention to the legislature until 48 hours before the session ends is beyond me. Endless wrangling and posturing, daily rotunda demonstrations pro and con for sundry causes, and proposals doomed from the start predominate.
    Then when everyone is exhausted, angered, overstressed, and sleep-deprived, all night meetings in clear violation off the open meeting law produce what passes for the people’s will.
    Even sausage making looks better.

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