For those Minnesotans still following the action, or rather the inaction, of the 2005 Legislature the predominant emotion the senators and representatives evoke is one of frustration.
Primarily, the frustration stems from the Legislature's inability to complete work on several major spending bills by end of its regular session.
Count among the most frustrated observers, the school administrators responsible for planning school budgets for next year. Lacking any clear indication of what their per-pupil aid will be next year, most school district business managers have had to make their best guess and hope the Legislature doesn't come up with even less money than they anticipated.
What can be done to get our elected lawmakers to finish their work in a timely fashion? It's unfair to those who have to administer state-funded programs to force them to wait through weeks of political posturing before they get final numbers for their budgets.
Some have suggested eliminating per diem payments or withholding legislators' paychecks until their work is complete. We're tempted to suggest that news conferences by the governor and lawmakers be prohibited until all of the major funding bills are approved.
One change that does make sense is to stagger the elections of state senators so that at least some of them are up for re-election every two years. In 2004 none of the senators had to run for office. As a result they didn't have a strong incentive to get their work done. House members, in contrast, paid the price at the polls when the public deemed the previous session to be the handiwork of a "do-nothing" Legislature.
While a certain amount of brinkmanship is to be expected in the political game, the legislators and governor must figure out a way to complete work on at least the basic major funding bills in a timely manner.
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