After an election with record-breaking voter participation, and where it looks like our state led the nation in voter turnout again, a couple of things are clear: Minnesotans are still ticket-splitters and we like divided state government.
During the past two years we were home to one of the only legislatures in the United States with one body controlled by Democrats and the other controlled by Republicans. Over the past several elections, states have sorted themselves red or blue. Not us.
While much of the battleground focus here was on the presidential race, what happens in St. Paul arguably has a more direct impact on our daily lives. And voters once again delivered a Minnesota House with a DFL majority and a Minnesota Senate with a Republican majority.
That might feel like reason for post-election despair. To the contrary, our bipartisan Legislature has shown it can get things done. We should encourage lawmakers to continue to show that kind of leadership when the new session convenes on Jan. 5.
Last month the Legislature came together during a special session to pass the largest infrastructure and capital investment bill in state history with strong bipartisan support. More than 80% of the Legislature voted for the bill. The measure funds construction and renovation projects across the state and will create thousands of much-needed jobs for Minnesotans.
The new Legislature looks quite a bit like the group that took that decisive action in October. There’s no question that lawmakers face significant challenges governing during a pandemic and with a multibillion-dollar deficit on the horizon. But voters are calling for leadership and character over party. And the October special session can serve as a model.
As returning and newly elected lawmakers prepare for the 2021 legislative session, the business community asks them to consider key areas where bipartisan cooperation will be critical to positioning our state for growth. We should recognize that states that lay a strong foundation now will be better prepared for success when the most difficult part of the pandemic is past.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area grew faster in the period after the Great Recession than our competitive peer regions. Let’s make sure we do the same coming out of the current economic downturn.
Doing so will require across-the-aisle support to strengthen small- and medium-sized businesses, avoid harmful and unnecessary regulations, build a stronger transportation and transit system, increase the availability of homes affordable at all income levels and bolster our education and workforce development programs.
In short, we must prioritize building an economy that is better than the one that we left in March. We are a state that strives to bring prosperity to all. There is no doubt we can and must do better in this region.
This pandemic has disproportionately harmed small businesses owned by people of color and immigrants. As we come out of this downturn, we must ensure that these businesses, which bring vibrancy, creativity and thousands of jobs to our state, are a key part of the recovery.
Our businesses are resilient. We are ready to go. We are asking the incoming Legislature to focus on the things that matter most to helping our employers survive and thrive. There is more that unites us than divides us.
Minnesotans have chosen bipartisan government once again. We implore you to make us proud of our votes.
Jonathan Weinhagen is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber. Twitter: @jweinhagen and @MplsChamber.