Other Opinions: At last, a productive session end
What a world of difference. The 2008 session of the Minnesota Legislature ended Sunday not only a day ahead of time, but seemingly with Republicans and Democrats stumbling over themselves to claim credit for a productive session.
And, considering the dark endings of the past few sessions, they have every right to crow about the 2008 session. As with every legislative session, there were winners and there were losers, but for the first time in a long time the session ended with a little something for everyone, including Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Of course, it should be mentioned that this fall is an election year, with all 134 members of the Minnesota House on the ballot and each and everyone of the incumbents seeking re-election want to take something home for that election. But perhaps most impressive is the way Senate Democrats decided to work for compromise instead of stymieing the governor at every turn, as they did four years ago when too they had nothing to lose with the Senate not on the fall ballot.
We hope it's what House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, told the Pioneer on Tuesday. "The only person with the motivational need to have things be unproductive was probably me," he said. The Senate had nothing to lose with neither Democrats nor Republicans on the ballot, he said, and Pawlenty's national stature could be harmed with a deadlocked Legislature. Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher's effort could have been damaged if House Republicans foot-dragged and nothing got done. "Policy-wise, it's all in our best interests to have a good session. ... A politician probably would have thrown sand into the gears, but we try to be statesmen and not politicians."
Plus, Seifert finds, "in general, the average person looks at this and they think it's time to get something done."
As a result, the session ended with some key provisions that should benefit the Bemidji area, notably the $20 million in bonding and sales tax extension for the Bemidji Regional Events Center, but also bonding for various Bemidji State University projects, including Sattgast Hall, and Paul Bunyan Trail.
We have yet to see how a property tax levy cap will affect the city and county, but welcome is the increased Local Government Aid and County Program Aid, and property tax relief. Schools will see $51 per student more, and nursing home workers will get a pay boost. We'll start getting better roads and mass transit opportunities also, but it took a veto override to get it.
All in all, the session could have bogged down as the previous session had. We could be facing a special session. But the state budget is balanced, without raising taxes, and lawmakers are home.
After several failing sessions, we'd have to give this one a "B+" which actually is a large improvement.
- Bemidji Pioneer