Editorial: It’s time to work together for a better Minnesota

Published 9:19 am Thursday, March 17, 2016

We’re all in this together.

That was Gov. Mark Dayton’s message Wednesday evening as he delivered his sixth State of the State address and outlined his priorities for the new legislative session. “If we stop working together, we stop making progress,” he told the state lawmakers gathered at the University of Minnesota. “When we slacken our efforts, pause or take a break, we fall behind.”

In the past, he said, falling behind has cut transportation, education and mental health funding, leading to problems throughout the state.

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Today, however, the Legislature has the opportunity to overcome past shortcomings by working together, whether in quickly extending Iron Range unemployment benefits or in finding meaningful ways to end economic disparities based on race, religion, nationality or disability status.

Dayton’s message of unity is important after last year’s legislative failures and a divisive first day for this year’s session, which featured party leadership divided over meeting spaces and a potential Iron Range aid agreement.

Hopefully, lawmakers from throughout the state will heed Dayton’s call for unified efforts.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt noted the power of bipartisan agreement last week during a Rochester visit, calling for his fellow legislators to concentrate on common goals. “Let’s focus on what we can agree on in this abbreviated session,” the Crown Republican said.

Granted, such efforts will accomplish needed changes. It likely will get added funding for road and bridge construction, produce tax relief for middle-class Minnesotans and yield bonding funds for improvement projects on state university and college campuses.

Yet, such a course could leave early childhood education efforts in limbo and fail to provide meaningful tax reform for businesses throughout the state. It could leave many important initiatives on the table.

Finding quick agreement isn’t the same as working together. Working together requires seeking common ground on measures that divide along party or geographical lines.

Dayton acknowledged that working together doesn’t mean both sides will get everything they seek. While discussing potential transportation funding, he indicated a willingness to consider middle ground. “I’m waiting for an alternative,” he said. “I’m willing to be flexible, but I will also insist on a real solution.”

We will hold him to that as the session progresses, just as we challenge our region’s lawmakers to heed the call to work together, especially in a time of economic recovery mixed with troubling national forecasts.

Much needs to be done this year, from overcoming past shortfalls in transportation and education funding to finding tax relief that doesn’t jeopardize the state’s economic health. While it may not all be possible during the shortened session, we know more will be done if everyone involved pulls together with the state’s best interest at heart.

“Minnesota has always been at its best when we work together,” Dayton said. “We are better when we recognize and anticipate the challenges ahead, and come together as one Minnesota to create opportunities for every child; every family; every person to succeed.”

That’s the Minnesota we hope to hang onto for a long time.


— Rochester Post Bulletin, March 10

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