Our opinion: This is not how this works

Published 5:55 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022

As members of the Minnesota State Legislature bristle and bicker and point fingers as to who’s the blame in the shadow of failing resolve several important issues in this latest session, it’s perhaps time for them to settle back and realize Minnesota communities and taxpayers are going to be the one’s paying the price.

In some ways — a hefty price.

Out of the $9.25 billion surplus, a vast majority of it — $7.2 million — is left unspent as Republicans and Democrats quibble on how best to spent it.

The regular session came and went and all hope for a special session to pursue tax cuts and bonding requests went up in smoke.

There has been some hope for a special session, but ultimately the end came when Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller walked away after blaming Democrats of wanting to spend too much in other areas.

In reality though, this as a failure on both sides.

About a week before the end of the regular session last month, Walz and top legislators announced an agreement on a plan to use $4 billion of the surplus over the next few years to cut taxes, $4 billion to increase spending in a number of areas and to save another $4 billion in case of an economic slowdown.

“Simply put, Governor Walz and the House Democrats have different spending priorities than Minnesotans,” Miller said in a statement. “After four months of session and four more weeks of discussions, the differences could not be resolved.”

But we need to consider that a major component of the legislator’s jobs is to get things done. This point becomes clear when you go back to when a change is state regulations forced Austin’s hand in renovating the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Austin was now faced with bringing the aged plant up to speed and other cities in this same quandary would need financial assistance from the state to help. It was, after all, the state that started this process.

However, when Austin was on the board to received $14.5 million in bonding money this year, thanks in part to the campaigning of Rep. Patricia Mueller and Sen. Gene Dornink, as well as Austin City leaders, that money was stripped at the last minute.

In July of 2021, estimates had work at the plant set at around $76 million, a price tag that has risen over the years since it was announced.

However, according to Austin City Engineer Steven Lang, industry reports are projecting anywhere from 15 to 20% inflationary increases.

The money that was taken off the table continues to leave the City of Austin in a bind and with work getting closer to beginning, it’s possible that taxpayers will have to shoulder more and more of the cost.

Mueller is optimistic that the funding will be secured either next year or the year after and we are hopeful that the work can be completed. A lot of work has been put into this to date and we hope some kind of positive outcome can come from this.

But in the meantime, those estimated inflationary costs are going to continue to eat into plant project and city leaders are rightfully becoming more and more frustrated.

— The Associated Press contributed to this editorial