Threat of shutdown needed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 12, 2001

With budget negotiations breaking down in St.

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

With budget negotiations breaking down in St. Paul, one idea has been to pass a skimpy bill that contains just enough money to keep state government running, then figure out tax and spending packages at next year’s Legislature.

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Surely, it’s important that government does not shut down. The lights have to stay on and employees need to keep getting paychecks.

But there’s another way to make sure that happens: Finally pass the bills that have been in the works for six months.

Passing a "lights-on" bill is just another stall tactic. The legislature wants to buy more time. But it has already had a full session and, now, the promise of special session called as soon as they get their act together. The threat of a government shutdown is all that’s left to apply pressure on lawmakers to get work done. That pressure should remain in place.

There are considerable gulfs between Senate Democrats and House Republicans on property taxes and education spending. They can’t seem to reach a compromise. But they’re never going to reach one if they don’t start talking. Talks have slowed to a near-halt this week, and Wednesday not a single conference committee met.

Is this how the Legislature is going to end? Is everyone going to give up and leave all the work for next year? If they do that, it will make next year’s session a huge task. If the Legislature can’t finish one year worth of business in 2001, what makes them think they can finish two years’ worth in 2002?

It takes time to make good decisions and produce good policy. But there have to be deadlines, and it’s reasonable to expect lawmakers to finish their jobs in the year they’re supposed to.