There isn't a voter in Minnesota who is not surprised that the 2011 legislative session ended without a bang and that state lawmakers are headed for another special session.
As soon as the special session talk surfaced and intensified, so did the finger pointing between parties. Again, no surprise there.
"The Republicans won't " "The Democrats are "
For the last few weeks, our elected officials, instead of reaching across the aisle, have been pointing across it, blaming anyone and everyone on the opposite side. We were told by many a candidate last summer that party politics wouldn't be tolerated, and while there have been hints of compromise, once again it's been of the too-little-too-late variety.
While no one said it was going to be easy this year, what with a $5 billion deficit, the voters of Minnesota deserve so much better than this.
They deserved, at the least, a true sense of urgency in the Capitol on Monday and, by all accounts, didn't get it.
They deserved a more laser-like approach, one squarely devoted to the deficit that would lead to some answers, and didn't get it.
All they got was a Legislature that continuously took on more and more issues, many of which could've waited until next year, or the year after. And by taking on all these other social issues and potential Constitutional amendments, they diverted themselves from the most important and divisive issue in the room.
They worked hard, we don't doubt that, but in the end, little got accomplished.
Every member of the Legislature went into the 2011 session, or should have, with one goal in mind: to fix the deficit at all costs. It didn't happen, not even close, and it might not happen for quite some time, meaning a potential partial government shutdown come July.
On Tuesday, Gov. Mark Dayton, to no one's surprise, vetoed the nine budget bills passed by the Legislature in the waning days of the session. In a way, that's encouraging news - at least it's proof that some progress is being made on some fronts. But it's pretty sad commentary that we classify a veto action as progress. The bad news is that these weren't just little, non-descript bills; on the contrary: They included education, the environment, health and human services, higher education, public safety and jobs. Basically the entire budget.
What's next? Gov. Dayton will eventually call members of the Legislature back to resolve the deficit issue after they wrap up their statewide media blitzes, and if all those freshmen policymakers thought they were under the gun before, they haven't seen anything yet. It could get ugly, but that's kind of what we've come to expect from our elected officials.
So let's call these next few days the calm before the storm and keep our fingers crossed that from that storm some fresh ideas will grow and will be accepted by both sides. The last thing this state needs in 2011 is a government shutdown. If that happens, it's a sure bet that we'll be seeing more new faces at the Capitol in 2012.