Posted: 12/10/14 10:25
by Dave Mindeman
The "new" House GOP majority seems to be comfortable with divisive politics. In fact, they seek it out and exploit it at every opportunity.
This new metro vs rural meme is going to be the new normal at the state capitol, but as yet, it is hard to understand what it means.
Rural issues lean heavily on transportation funding, but Republicans have never been serious champions of meeting that need. The only way that the House GOP can meet the present reality is to extract it from suburban support of light rail and BRT. Which will further divide the legislature and probably solidify the new DFL suburban beach heads.
Here's another monkey wrench in this new found GOP rural attention.....
The latest numbers from the nonpartisan Minnesota House Research Department show the seven-county metro area pays 64 percent of the state's taxes and gets back 53 percent of the major tax aids, credits and refunds. By comparison, the 80 non-metro counties pay 36 percent and get back 47 percent.
A lot of the LGA money that Republicans complained about in the recent past have a very heavy rural flavor to it. Small communities would get a disproportionate share of local government aid....and the GOP would cry foul at every opportunity. Does the new "rural reality" mean that outstate LGA money will get a different look?
Talk of PolyMet's mining operation is getting lip service as well. Is the GOP majority going to circumvent environmental processes to speed this along and establish a precedent that could have future ramifications? Are they willing to risk future environmental costs that will most likely end up in the general fund?
And what does the re-establishment of an Agricultural Committee in the House really mean outside of "symbolism"? Are there high profile items in the Ag community that are not getting done? or not addressed? There has never been a lot of detail in that regard....probably because no one knows yet.
The reality of the matter still has the fact that over 60% of Minnesota's population is metro. If you prioritize the budget to funnel more funding into the outstate 40%, you are naturally going to cause inefficient use of funds.
The legislature would use the bonding bill to try to balance the needs of outstate Minnesota - especially when DFL majorities were present. But it has always been the GOP that blocks the smaller outstate projects and uses them in their election year campaign ads as "pork barrel spending".
Where is that "renewed rural focus" going to land?
I expect the GOP rhetoric to take a big reversal in tone this session.
We shall see.