Throughout this legislative session, the Star Tribune Editorial Board has advocated for a middle ground, a path of compromise where both Republicans and Democrats could help advance Minnesota.
However, with less than two weeks to go before the session deadline and talks at a stalemate, we feel compelled to say that “no” does not constitute compromise. Talks stalled on Monday when legislative leaders blew through their self-imposed deadline for budget targets.
It’s to be expected that Senate Republicans seek to hold down taxes and growth in government. That viewpoint is a necessary part of balanced governing. And some of their proposals regarding elimination of waste and abuse should have gotten more serious consideration. But they go too far when they insist on virtually no new revenue and a level of austerity that would jeopardize health care in this state and neglect critical infrastructure updates in the name of false savings.
Their plan for transportation puts a mere $200,000 of new appropriations into roads and bridges for the coming two-year budget period and only $322 million in new spending across the entire budget. They refuse to repeal an ill-considered sunset of the 2% provider tax that has undergirded this state’s public health programs for decades, with no real plan for those who would lose coverage. Their Monday offer to the governor consisted of cutting undefined “waste” in health care and shifting those dollars to K-12 education. Minnesotans did not vote in a Democratic governor and House majority to pit sick people against schoolchildren.
Let’s be clear: Gov. Tim Walz should not expect to get everything he wants. His original $49 billion budget proposal was too rich and in need of moderation. His offer Monday would have reduced his new spending of $1.9 billion by $200 million, in return for his original gas tax increase of 20 cents a gallon and restoration of the provider tax. The GOP dismissed that as a token bid.
At some point, Senate Republicans must acknowledge a political reality. Their gubernatorial candidate, Jeff Johnson, ran on a platform of lower taxes and reduced government spending. He lost. Big. Walz ran on a gas tax increase and better roads, schools, health care, gun safety and climate change. He won by a double-digit margin and nearly 300,000 votes. House Republicans ran on a platform similar to Johnson’s. They lost their majority to Democrats, who now hold a 16-seat advantage.
The GOP Senate has a right, even a responsibility, to moderate proposed tax increases and find efficiencies wherever possible. Instead, it has throughout the session systematically declared virtually every major piece of Walz’s agenda dead on arrival. Now, in the 11th hour of the session, the GOP strategy is what, to force a newly elected governor to surrender on every major piece of the platform that got him elected? That’s not compromise — it’s a demand for capitulation and a recipe for a special session.
Minnesotans shouldn’t stand for that. When leaders do meet again, they should sharpen their pencils, block out the far sides of their bases and make serious offers that move toward the middle, without further delay.