Editorial Roundup: Bipartisanship GOP, DFL legislators had some success in efforts
Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2022
The 2022 Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Tim Walz can claim some significant successes when it comes to reaching compromise on important issues.
Of course, the biggest prize, a $4 billion agreement for tax relief, $4 billion for investments and $4 billion for a healthy reserve, fell apart in the last weeks.
But these pages have always preached the value of bipartisan compromise so some credit is due.
The biggest bipartisan compromise bills included shoring up the state unemployment insurance fund, renewing a Republican favored reinsurance program that lowers health care premiums and a front-line worker bonus plan. Legislators and Walz also reached compromise on smaller bills dealing with agriculture, mental health, opioids and broadband.
Under a compromise, an estimated 667,000 front-line workers during the pandemic will receive up to $750 under a $500 million plan. The compromise was hard fought with Democrats wanting a much more expensive bill that went to more people and tying it to the unemployment insurance bill to put $2.7 billion into getting the fund back to where it was before the pandemic.
Walz found himself agreeing with a bipartisan coalition in the Senate and disagreeing with the House DFL majority on the issue, which delayed action until the last minute before businesses faced huge unemployment insurance tax increases.
The combined plan was likely one of the most significant compromises made by legislators, and one in which both sides can take credit.
Renewing the reinsurance pool to underwrite health insurance premiums for individuals and small businesses who can’t afford market rates is always an expensive proposition at $700 million over three years. But the agreement will likely keep health insurance premiums at about a 3% increase instead of an estimated 30% increase.
The broadband compromise was perhaps easier to accomplish as available funding nearly tripled from years past, much of it — $160 million — coming from federal government pandemic funds and infrastructure funds. Broadband projects will be funded at $50 million a year for three years.
Farmers finally got drought relief after waiting for a year as the compromise will send $8 million to livestock and specialty crop producers, $5 million to tree planting and $2.5 million for a disaster loan program.
Legislators agreed to spend $52 million to support veterans homes and cemeteries, bonuses for military service and programs to end veteran homelessness.
Republicans and Democrats also agreed to a framework to distribute $300 million from the state’s settlement with opioid companies as well as authorizing a $200,000 audit of the Southwest Lightrail Line by the State Auditor’s Office.
In a good last ditch effort, legislators also compromised on a mental health bill that provided funding for mental health programs in schools and helped underwrite loan forgiveness programs for mental health providers. It also created a process for people who were found mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Mental health programs have become critical to the growing mental health needs during the pandemic. It was good to see progress on this issue which clearly should not be partisan.
And finally, legislative leaders in an impressive effort to build a coalition of people in the brewing industry forged a compromise so craft brewers could sell growlers, crowlers and cans of beer. Some craft brewers that produced more than 20,000 barrels a year could not sell growlers in their brewpubs like smaller brewers. Those limits were raised, so Schell’s, Castle Danger brewing and others can now sell growlers.
We can lift our glass to that and all the other compromises a two-party government made on behalf of Minnesotans this year. We’d like to see a few more wins with a special session yet this summer.
— Mankato Free Press, July 24