- Minnesota deserves better.
They deserve better than a Senate chamber that cannot function for the people of this State. As we once again approach the deadline for our state budget, the gimmicks and games of the past continue. Here are some examples:
- HAVA Funds – I have trouble understanding why voting is such an enigma for Republicans in Minnesota. Every year they complain about imaginary fraud, yet when they can actually do have a method of shoring up the protections for our system, they are the obstacle towards that end. HAVA funds have been allocated by the Feds. They are available to our state for the asking. But the MN Senate refuses to ask for the entire allotment. And, as the Mueller Report has made clear, our electoral systems are definitely at risk. Russia is still seeking to undermine our democratic elections. Our Secretary of State, Steve Simon, has a plan to use those funds for more protections. But the MN Senate is content to slow walk this funding as if the urgent need does not exist. Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, who is a former Secretary of State for MN (and should know better), is the focal point of this in the Senate. And just like when she was our SOS, she has failed. Protecting our voting system should be an obvious act of governing. The GOP MN Senate fails.
- The Provider Tax – Like most states, MN struggles to provide health care in a convenient, affordable way. But unlike other states, we have a system that has worked for many and can be built upon if our legislators have the political will. The Provider tax has served a great purpose in Minnesota. It is paid by those health care providers who benefit and it has kept Minnesota Care solvent for the entirety of its existence. The MN GOP wants it to go away. The Legislature has a sunset provision on this tax which allows it to end this year. And of course, the MN GOP contends that simply extending it is a “tax increase”. It has been in our budget for years and it is a focal point to expand health care for those who cannot get affordable insurance. Although all MN Republicans share the blame for not supporting this valuable MN asset, it is the MN Senate GOP that blocks it now. The GOP MN Senate fails.
- Gun Bills – It is one thing to block gun safety legislation but it is another to block discussion of it. Senate Majority leader, Sen. Paul Gazelka, refuses to allow hearings on these bills. Refuses dialogue. Is there some fear of the will of the people in this regard? Because of this refusal, the MN Democratic House wants to force a vote by including these bills in its public safety omnibus. Gazelka cries foul at a tactic that his party has used for years. The make up of the Senate, (at the moment), makes it difficult for passage of the bills on the table. But Minnesota citizens deserve to have the debate. The GOP MN Senate fails.
- Opioid Tax – The opioid crisis affects Minnesota like it affects many other states. It is out of control and we need help. A tax on manufacturers surprisingly passed the Senate in a broad bipartisan vote recently. This bill could provide more treatment and restriction that will try to prevent medical addictions. On the surface, it looks like the MN Senate is on board. But there is a poison pill (excuse the expression) in the Senate version. The biggest difference is that under the Senate version, high fees would sunset if the state reaches big settlements in opioid lawsuits against drug companies. There will be settlements and the minimal threshold they proffered will more than likely be met on the first settlement. So, the drug companies, in essence, get a back door protection. The GOP MN Senate fails.
- Roads and Bridges – The most fundamental legislature responsibility is to maintain our roads and bridges and expand our transportation system. People need it. Business needs it. It must function. And it is very clear that huge shortfalls in the transportation budget exist. Shortfalls that need new revenue to even come close to meeting the needs. The MN GOP Senate recognizes that to a point. They just do not believe in raising the fundamental transportation revenue stream – the gas tax. It is dedicated funds for transportation needs. It has not been raised in a decade. Does the MN GOP seriously believe that the need has not grown? Do they not know inflation is part of the equation? And that repairs have outpaced our ability to pay? Oh, I think they know all of that – but they are one trick ponies and cannot allow a tax increase to be part of any solution. Instead, they think stealing money from other areas is the answer. Fill in a hole by digging another. The MN GOP Senate fails.
- The Minnesota Zoo – The Minnesota Zoo makes requests for upgrades to the legislature every year. And every year they are disappointed. In the recent past, it has been Republican led House that throws out most of the Zoo funding. Senator Greg Clausen, who represents the Zoo district, would always try to meet the Zoo needs in the Senate, only to have it slashed by the House. Well, the tables turned this time when the Democrats took the House. Now the House works to meet those Zoo needs while the Senate does the slashing despite Senator Clausen’s efforts. The Zoo has patched things together based on what they are given, but they have been waiting to make a major upgrade converting the old MonoRail into a type of skywalk…observing the animals from above. It is a good project using existing structures – but it will still take significant funding. Something the MN Senate seems unwilling to do. In fact, the MN GOP Senate wants to make things worse. They have proposed an amendment which would force the Zoo to offer free admission on major holidays. FREE ADMISSION. While that might sound great for the consumer, the Zoo would suffer mightily as it loses it biggest revenue days. Revenue that forces more cutbacks on its needed projects. The MN Senate cuts the Zoo funding requests and then cuts their revenue. The MN GOP Senate fails.
In one session, the MN GOP Senate has slashed and burned its way through the Minnesota budget. What the House proposes, the Senate disposes. How can we move ahead with such tactics? During the 2018 election, the Democrats took over the MN House. The Republicans in the Senate held their narrow majority only because the Senate was not on the ballot. They observed the will of the people and then ignored it.
Since the MN GOP Senate has become an obstruction, it is up to the 2020 electorate to fix this. I realize that we have Trump to deal with as well, but the needs of Minnesota are at stake here. A changeover in Senate leadership is critical for our state. Obstruction and gimmicks have been the ways of the past.
Let’s fix that. Turnover the Senate to Democrats and begin real action for our state.