Legislature gets failing grade

To the Editor:

I believe the 2012 Legislature gets a failing grade.  It seems obvious that Minnesotans will have a clear choice in November between leaders who truly value public education, jobs and the middle class and those who view our state as just a place for political games.

From paying back our schools to lowering property taxes for families and small businesses, much remains to be done to move our state forward.  Unfortunately, the out-of-touch priorities of the Republican-led legislature have taken Minnesota backwards.  They shut down state government, protected corporate tax loopholes while raising property taxes on middle class Minnesotans, and borrowed billions to paper over another record state budget deficit.

The Republican majority introduced more than 20 bills targeting public education, none of them responsibly addressed the most pressing needs of our students, including repaying the state’s $2 billion IOU to its schools, closing the achievement gap and developing a sustainable funding system for the future.

Instead, this Republican led legislature has passed bills on abortion, guns (stand your ground) and fireworks.  We saw bills that would raise the health insurance costs for educators and their districts, put corporate tax breaks ahead of repaying the debt to our schools.

After five months of debate, the union-busting right-to-work constitutional amendment won’t be on the November ballot, thanks in part to a bi-partisan recognition that it was an attack on unions and the middle class.

The single most important task before the legislature in even number years is to pass the bonding bill, and they didn’t get that done until the very last hours of session and only because the Democratic minority provided the leadership needed, as well as the majority of the votes.  When the Senate bonding bill is supported by 18 of 37 Republicans and 27 of 30 Democrats, it makes you ask, “Who is the majority again?”  As Senator Nienow said in a May 8th tweet “If a Majority Caucus needs most of the votes from the Minority to pass a bill, what does that say about their leadership?”  Well put Sen. Nienow.

We could dwell on the misplaced priorities and missed opportunities of the 2012 session, but now it’s time to look ahead. It’s time we look to next legislative session so we can elect new lawmakers who will develop the policies for 2013 that will give Minnesotans what they deserve, and what we, in the past, took great pride in – the best public schools in the nation and a strong, healthy and dependable workforce to keep the state moving forward.

Cindy Erickson

North Branch

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