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Guest Editorial - MN GOP sings same old song

In a recent column, Tom Friedman spells out exactly how Congress and the president could break their gridlock and start solving problems.

The formula in a word: Compromise. Party leaders must offer "bold plans that not only challenge the other's base but also their own -- and thereby mobilize the center, a big majority, behind their agenda," Friedman writes.

And that formula applies closer to home. In St. Paul, the same issues divide the parties, the same stubbornness blocks solutions -- and the same formula awaits.

Here's how not to begin.

In Wednesday's Star Tribune, the minority leaders of the Minnesota House and Senate offered a Republican look at the upcoming legislative session.

What a great opportunity this would have been to challenge "not only the other's base but also their own." But what a one-sided message the leaders put forward instead, stepping not one foot away from their partisan ground.

Their losing partisan ground, that is. In November, as Minnesotans know, voters cleaned House (and Senate) and tossed out the Republican majorities in both chambers. Why?

Well, given the fact that the GOP had staked its all on "no new taxes," voters' landslide rejection of the party might have made Republicans rethink that stance.

But no. "Last week, DFL leaders in both the House and Senate announced their interest in increasing sales, gas, property and income taxes," wrote Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

"How does taking more money out of the pockets of businesses and families grow jobs for Minnesotans? ... For Republicans in the Legislature, our focus is on the budget. We hope the DFL will join us in prioritizing economic growth that will benefit all Minnesotans. We don't think raising tax rates is the answer."

Those paragraphs could have been written at any time during the GOP's majority rule. They show that the party's November defeat has not brought about even a nanosecond of introspection.

Here's more evidence: "Two years ago, Minnesota's economic outlook was bleak," Hann and Daudt wrote.

"Unemployment was at 7 percent, and the state's budget projections showed a $6.2 billion budget deficit. Today, the picture has brightened" -- you guessed it, because of the GOP's refusal to raise taxes when it held the majority.

GOP candidates tried that line during the 2012 election, too; and look where it got them. Minnesotans didn't buy it then, and they're not going to buy it now.

What would voters buy?

Friedman nails it: Both parties should offer plans that challenge "not only the other's base but also their own."

Try this Grand Bargain on for size: Democrats agree to eliminate the corporate income tax in return for Republicans OK'ing the broadening of the sales tax base, as suggested in Wednesday's editorial.

Or this one, which would both raise revenue for public services and lower their cost: Republicans say they'll accept tax hikes in return for Democrats passing public-sector pension and collective-bargaining reforms.

"We Republicans are ready to work side by side with our DFL colleagues to the tackle the challenges ahead," Hann and Daudt write. That's fine, but it's also meaningless as long as the leaders keep their death grips on their partisan ideology.

Minnesotans want bold -- not stubborn -- leadership, and that means they want compromise.

-- Grand Forks Herald