To move Minnesota forward, we need ideas and the candidates to carry them.
Minnesotans are guaranteed at least 55 new faces when the 2013 Legislature convenes, a result of redistricting and retirements. Some pieces of the puzzle became a little clearer following Tuesday's primary elections.
Who occupies the 201 seats in the House and Senate is of keen interest to the statewide business community. We need high-caliber leaders if we are to strengthen the business environment and improve the lives of all Minnesotans.
Tom Horner and Tim Penny challenged the business community to exert the leadership necessary to build a bright future for Minnesota ("Business, it's time to wise up politically," Aug. 12). We accept the challenge; indeed, we are already leading. It's our trademark.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has distinguished itself by being at the forefront of advancing new strategies to replace worn-out and broken public policy, then supporting candidates who will advance those ideas. Both parts of the equation are essential to Minnesota's economic vitality.
Some results of our efforts:
Transportation: In 2006, we led the successful "Vote Yes" campaign, the broad-based coalition that advocated raising the gas tax and constitutionally dedicating it to roads and public transit across the state. Our support for this amendment and the comprehensive funding bill that we helped pass in 2008 was contingent on the creation of a task force to identify and recommend operating efficiencies in the Minnesota Department of Transportation. That task force made sound recommendations, and we continue to lobby the department to implement them in full.
Health care: We were at the forefront of 2008 legislation that enacted significant reforms in the delivery of health care. We are a leading voice to create a health insurance exchange tailored to meet the needs of Minnesotans -- a system driven by the private marketplace to ensure that Minnesota small businesses and individuals can shop for coverage based on provider results and what they charge.
Education: Teamwork is essential if Minnesota is to close the achievement gap and distinguish itself as the skilled workforce state. We've spearheaded efforts the past two legislative sessions to improve K-12 classroom instruction and will tee up higher-ed reforms for 2013.
Presenting new solutions is only half of the formula for success. New ideas will sputter in the legislative hallways unless we have policymakers willing to take the risk and rise above the politics of single-issue groups.
The Minnesota-made charter school movement is a perfect example of blending substantive policy and skillful politics. The first step was engaging fresh thinking; then, skillful politicians guided the idea to fruition.
Our policy recommendations on K-12 education, higher ed, health care and transportation all call for doing things differently. We recognize the problems and suggest new solutions. That said, achieving the desired results takes time and finesse.
Horner and Penny repeatedly identify the solution to the state's public policy woes as identifying the middle ground between two ideological extremes. There is nothing wrong with compromise. Charter-school advocates strategically scaled back their original proposal, recognizing the importance of enacting something into law to set the idea in motion.
But simply accepting compromise -- cut some spending here, raise some taxes there -- leaves us with the same old programs and the same unsatisfactory results.
New solutions are as important as electing leaders who are willing to embrace them. Our state needs bold, innovative and practical political leaders -- not simply those content to meet in the middle. That is our top priority for the Nov. 6 election.
David C. Olson is president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
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