EDITORIAL: CGMC is right – Plenty of blame to go around for latest legislative debacle

Mike Christopherson
Times Managing Editor Mike Christopherson

If you’re a resident of Crookston or care about what becomes of Crookston and this region of Minnesota, perhaps the best or most accurate reading you can get on how things are going around these parts comes from the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, of which the City of Crookston is a member.

More often than not, CGMC leadership will be critical of what Republicans at the State Capitol in St. Paul are doing, or not doing, and more in agreement with Democrats. Mostly, that’s because the CGMC often takes a pro-investment stance in rural areas of the state, and Democrats are usually more in favor of state spending on things like infrastructure and development projects than Republicans, who usually want to spend less and cut taxes.

But after Republicans leading the Minnesota Senate adjourned the legislature’s special session early Saturday, CGMC President Audrey Nelsen, a member of the Willmar City Council, was bipartisan in offering her harsh, but warranted criticism of what is once again transpiring in St. Paul: Partisan politics and an allergic reaction to meaningful compromise resulting in little of significance getting accomplished.

Calling the special session a “train wreck,” Nelsen, in a statement released Saturday by the CGMC, cast blame on Republicans in the Senate for adjourning early, a move she called “completely arbitrary.” But Nelsen also pointed an accusing finger at DFLers leading the Minnesota House. The Senate passed a “clean bill” that would provide $841 million in federal CARES Act money to local governments across the state, but the “House DFL essentially killed the bill when they chose to tack on unrelated measures,” Nelsen said.

For those scoring at home, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. The state’s onetime projected $1 billion-plus surplus is now a deficit projected to be more than $2 billion. And yet our legislators, even in these unprecedented times, once again prove that they can make the impossible possible: They lower the bar that measures our expectations of them.

• No bill to release CARES Act money to Minnesota municipalities

• No police reform

• No bonding bill

Of course, it’s never over until it’s really over down there in St. Paul. Negotiations will continue even after the special session’s adjournment, and everyone could come back next month, when Gov. Tim Walz is either going to try to extend is emergency powers once again, or loosen the reins on his executive order abilities as some sort of olive branch extended to Republicans who think he’s used the pandemic as a power play.

“There is plenty of blame to go around for this disastrous special session,” Nelsen said. “The people of Minnesota deserve better.”

We certainly do.