When it comes to politics, Minnesotans are well-known ticket splitters. For the last three decades, we've largely chosen divided government at the state level.
Split control can get messy. It's led to delayed budgets and a partial shutdown or two. But Minnesotans rightly believe long-term balance is more important than temporary inconvenience.
Between 1990 and 2022, voters opted for single-party control of state government only once. In the 2012 election, Democrats took control of the Minnesota Legislature in the middle of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's first term.
The next two years produced legislative excesses unique to one-party rule.
Some in the business world have apparently forgotten ("Business has nothing to fear from DFL dominance," Nov. 16). The small business community has not.
In 2013, Minnesota's small businesses braced for the worst, following years of threats about higher taxes and copycat regulations from progressive bastions like California and New York.
Lawmakers used single-party control to pass a slew of tax increases that hit Main Street hard. The 2013 tax bill imposed higher taxes on small-business income and health care, as well as new taxes on warehouse storage, equipment repair and broadband infrastructure. The latter taxes were so unpopular they were repealed just a year later.
Other taxes stuck around. Single-party control catapulted Minnesota to the fourth highest individual income tax rate in the country. We remain a high tax outlier nationally and regionally. Meanwhile, our neighbors have used perennial budget surpluses to reduce taxes and make their states more attractive to families and small businesses.
Single-party control also brought energy mandates that increased electric bills, new labor mandates that made it harder for small businesses to compete, and a reckless implementation of the MNsure website that upended many Minnesotans' health coverage for years. And let's not forget that historic permanent increase in state spending and a new $100 million office building for politicians in St. Paul.
Unsurprisingly, voters returned to ticket splitting in 2014. For the next eight years, a divided state government brought more deliberate, balanced change.
Now, Minnesotans once again face single-party control. What should we expect?
We had a preview from the last four years of progressive control in the Minnesota House. A higher gas tax, higher incomes taxes, expensive mandates on small business, and California-style energy policies were all key priorities.
Despite worker shortages and historic inflation, progressives pushed for a $1-billion-per-year payroll tax to fund an impractical government-run paid leave program that would crush small business.
Narrow majorities in both chambers of the Legislature should invite moderation. New leaders and new members bring different priorities and perspectives to the job. A fragile economy warrants caution.
Will history repeat itself? Not necessarily.
Should small businesses be concerned about another round of single-party control? Absolutely.
John Reynolds is the Minnesota state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), which represents more than 10,000 small businesses in Minnesota.