Below is a guest column that was sent to newspapers across the state this week. It has been published in the Owatonna People’s Press, Worthington Daily Globe, Hutchinson Leader, Renville County Register, Granite Falls Advocate Tribune, Grand Forks Herald, Winona Daily News, West Central Tribune, Pine Journal, Alexandria Echo Press, Fergus Falls Journal and Detroit Lakes Tribune.
Minnesota mayors: Let’s support candidates who will deliver results
By Mayor Sara Carlson and Mayor Dave Smiglewski
Let’s not mince words: Minnesota’s 2016 legislative session was, by and large, a massive failure. Political posturing led to the demise of the transportation bill and bonding bill, while a typo that would have cost the state $100 million compelled Governor Dayton to veto an otherwise good tax bill.
As cities across the state set their budgets and plan for the future, we can’t hide the fact that the bungled session had negative consequences.
As city leaders, we are disappointed that this legislative inaction means our communities and others in Greater Minnesota will not be able to pursue key economic development projects, fix our crumbling streets, pay for critical upgrades to wastewater infrastructure or reap the benefits of an increase in Local Government Aid. Furthermore, as Minnesotans who take pride in our state’s reputation for pragmatism and strength, we are embarrassed that our government simply did not work.
There is plenty of blame to go around — and many sore fingers from all that pointing —but with just weeks until the election, it’s time to stop complaining and start looking for solutions.
As voters, we need to ask the candidates and ourselves how things will be different in 2017. Whether we send back the same cast of characters or elect new ones, we need leaders who refuse to accept the inaction of the last biennium as the status quo. “Compromise” must be more than just a political buzzword; it must be a course of action if we are going to see real results for Greater Minnesota.
Last session, it was disappointing to see that some rural legislators appeared to operate under the impression that in order to help Greater Minnesota, they needed to take something away from the metro area.
This strategy of attempting to hurt the metro — by cutting state aid to Minneapolis and St. Paul and preventing construction of light rail transit even if it was paid for by metro-area dollars — proved to be counterproductive. Trying to poke holes in the metro’s bucket did nothing to actually improve Greater Minnesota. Instead, it only fueled more of the divisiveness that prevents progress and harms our entire state.
This cannot continue. We need legislators who will focus on accomplishing good things for the communities they represent rather than devote their time and energy to trying to stop the other party or region from getting things they need.
Candidates can show this commitment by pledging to support a $45.5 million increase in LGA so cities can provide the services residents depend on without forcing huge property tax increases.
They can vow to pass a bonding bill in the first 60 days of the next session that includes the projects slated for funding in the ill-fated 2016 bill.
They can break the deadlock over transportation by supporting a gas tax increase and addressing transit needs in the metro area — especially if, as proposed, the metro will be paying for it.
These are just a few of the things candidates can do to demonstrate that they are serious about their willingness to compromise if elected. Legislators from both parties and all parts of the state need to work together, both in public and behind the scenes, to come to solutions that will move Minnesota forward.
Candidates: Be bold, be innovative, be unafraid to stray from your party if it means you can achieve something positive for your constituents. Minnesota simply cannot afford another two years of discord and failed bills.
Voters: Ask questions and demand real answers from your candidates. Urge them to take a stance on tough issues and hold them accountable for their words and actions. Your vote matters; use it to support candidates who will deliver results for Greater Minnesota and the whole state.
Sara Carlson is mayor of Alexandria and Dave Smiglewski is mayor of Granite Falls. They also serve as president and vice president, respectively, of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.