Editorial: Legislature: Many good reasons for special session

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2022

There are millions, maybe billions, of good reasons for Democrats and Republicans at the Legislature to come to agreement on unresolved issues and ask Gov. Tim Walz to call a special session.

Minnesota stands to lose federal transportation matching dollars if it doesn’t act quickly to approve the matching amounts, which are only a percentage of the $7.3 billion Minnesota could get over the next three years, much of it going to transportation projects.

Walz noted the federal money was the largest infrastructure package from the feds in 50 years. “If we do not put in the matching funds for some of the competitive grants, other states will, and they will get new roads, new bridges. They will get the lead out of their pipes. They will get new water treatment systems. All of those things are going to happen, and they need to happen here,” he told Minnesota Public Radio News.

There is no shortage of transportation needs in Minnesota. Roads, bridges and other infrastructure have been underfunded for decades, leaving repairs more costly than they need be.

Democrats and Republicans simply have to approve the $282 million a year in matching funds. There’s plenty of room to do that with a $9.3 billion surplus.

Walz noted that because Minnesota sends more money in taxes to the federal government than it receives back in funding, it would be fiscally irresponsible to leave the federal funds on the table.

We agree.

Republican leaders in transportation committees say they would rather use auto sales tax money for the match or that the governor can use his authority to use current MnDOT funds to get the matching money.

If that’s the only way to get it done this year, then Walz should go ahead and do it. He would be serving taxpayers and responding to what they’ve said they want: good roads, bridges and transit.

But legislators left plenty of other good proposals on the table. They should also come to agreement on the tax and spending bill. That calls for some $4 billion in tax relief, including eliminating the tax on Social Security benefits and funding education, including the $700 million in underfunded special education.

Local school districts must pay for those costs that were filling in the gap of federal and state underfunding. Special education funding will assist school districts and taxpayers all over the state, and therefore should be an easy bipartisan agreement.

And what senior wouldn’t be thrilled to pay no taxes on their Social Security benefits.

Republicans and Democrats have made good progress on bipartisan efforts this year. Both sides have been willing to let go of some of their pet projects. Gov. Walz has been a leader, as he should be.

Much has been accomplished.

Now it’s time to finish the job. We urge Walz and legislative leaders to work hard and compromise and call another special session this year to finish the work Minnesotans expect them to get done.

Mankato Free Press, May 29

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