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Opinion: Legislators, keep eyes on emergencies

Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislators are jousting about the scope of their agenda for a special legislative session likely in early September.

All know a session should be convened so the state can tap federal disaster relief funds to cover damage from a June 21 storm that rocked 18 counties, including Stearns, Benton and Morrison.

The debate is whether the session also should include repealing certain tax hikes passed in May.

The special session should not address anything more than disaster relief. Here’s why:

Emergencies only

Special sessions are for emergencies only. In this case, that means the state needs to take the necessary steps so the federal government can pay for 75 percent of the costs local governments incurred in cleaning up after the storm.

Amending or revoking other legislation passed not even three months ago — some of which has yet to start — is all about politics and by no means an emergency.

Focus the special session on bona fide emergencies. Not fixing “bad” legislation. Goodness, that could be a never-ending job.

Bad or not?

Who is to say this legislation is bad or worth changing when there is no clear answer as to what will replace it?

The state’s influential business lobby wants several new taxes targeting its clients to be repealed. Combined, they create a roughly $300 million budget gap. However, there are few details about what would replace them. Would other taxes be raised or added? Or would state programs and services be cut?

Without specifics, it’s impossible for legislators and all Minnesotans to judge whether these taxes are bad. Plus, given how special sessions convene and conclude in just a matter of days or even hours, there likely will be no chance for constituents to voice their concerns to legislators before votes are cast.

Live with it ... for now

Finally, no special session should cater to one special interest. Yet that’s essentially the case here.

Does that mean these taxes are a good idea? No!

Increasing state spending by more than 8 percent from the previous budget was an overreach. Honestly, though, so was adherence to “no new taxes” that dominated St. Paul under Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But no special sessions were called to make that “fix.”

Legislators and the governor should live with their decisions — at least until they convene the 2014 regular session. That’s the place with enough time to develop a thorough fix for this “bad” legislation. — The St. Cloud Times