Door ajar for special session; take it
Once ruled out even as a long shot, the possibility of Gov. Tim Pawlenty calling a special session grew Friday as he apparently left open the slim chance of a limited special session to move forward a tax bill without the poison pill in the one h...
Once ruled out even as a long shot, the possibility of Gov. Tim Pawlenty calling a special session grew Friday as he apparently left open the slim chance of a limited special session to move forward a tax bill without the poison pill in the one he vetoed last Wednesday.
It's an encouraging thought, given that most political observers hadn't dwelled much on a special session, especially since the tax bill is about the only state budget bill that doesn't need to be passed. Once vetoed, current tax law continues so revenue still flows to the state budget.
But by not having the tax bill signed, a number of items will instead burden state taxpayers. It's especially tough on local governments, which use state aid to pay for basic services such as law enforcement and fire protection based on a formula which assesses a city's tax base. The vetoed bill left a $70 million Local Government Aid increase on the floor, which will translate to losses to city and county government. According to the House Research Department, Park Rapids will lose $71,709, Menahga's loss is $4,136, Laporte won't see $1,078 and Wolf Lake loses $2,000. (Nevis and Akeley show no loss or gain.)
Without state help, local property taxes will climb $600 million next year, state research predicts.
Locally, the bill included Bemidji's half-cent sales tax extension for regional events center construction, and passage of that matter would remove an item from an already rickety table.
And it includes some property tax relief, business tax breaks and an extension of Pawlenty's favored Job Opportunities Building Zones program.
The Republican governor showed movement Friday, saying he could envision a one-day or half-day special session to consider a tax bill sans the vetoed provision that inflation be included in state budget forecasts. At the same time, he laid down a gauntlet, predicting House and Senate Democrats will never come to an agreement that will prompt Pawlenty to call a special session.
We hope the governor can be proven wrong. DFL legislative leaders should hurry to the table to craft a new tax bill that includes most of the provisions that all sides can agree upon, and won't draw a veto.
But we'd also like to go one step farther - get Pawlenty and legislative leaders to also agree to a slimmed-down capital bonding bill that contains only emergency items or those that are ready to go yet this summer. It could include Pawlenty's pledge for the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center, and we would hope the $2 million for Bemidji State University to acquire the old Bemidji High School - another item on a rickety table of local funding issues. A bonding bill should be found within $150 million to $200 million, certainly not near the $334 million bill Pawlenty vetoed during the session.
The challenge is there - prepare a consensus tax bill and a barebones bonding bill. Do that in the next couple of weeks, having lawmakers pass those two items in an hours-long session before July 1, and then let us all enjoy the summer with a less bitter taste.