Gay MarriageIts like the first day of school, fresh faces and familiar ones are hopeful and enthusiastic about the new Legislature being sworn in at noon today.  We’ll see how long that lasts….

The Current has been following the “session preview” news stories over the past months since the election.  Initially they were focused on tax reform and the budget.  There is a billion dollar hole in the state budget that needs to be fixed, and Governor Dayton still can’t wait to raise taxes on “the rich.” (One wonders if these are the 2010 Dayton’s “earns over a million” rich, or the 2012 Obama “couple over $450K newly-discovered rich, or maybe just everyone with a job…) Certainly there are major systemic problems with the Minnesota tax code, and many avenues to explore in fixing them.

The economics of the state are recovering but fragile, and stabilizing the state budget should be the number one priority of the 2013 session.

However, in recent weeks, the focus of the media coverage has shifted to two other issues, gun control and gay marriage. We have also heard a number of individual legislators talking about more money for public education (With no real details on where “more money” would come from).

This fiscal conservative would prefer that the legislature focus on the budget before spending effort on these other issues.  Lawmakers should learn a lesson from the 2012 elections and the 2010 shutdown, and make sure our financial house is in order, or risk a severe backlash from the voters.  I do not have a high confidence that the DFL-controlled state government will heed my advice.

The economy, stupid. ~ James Carville, 1992

Marriage has become the third rail in Minnesota politics. We have apparently learned nothing from the 2012 election. The Marriage Amendment failed in front of the voters, and likely cost the GOP their majorities in both houses. Minnesotans United is pressing hard to go in the opposite direction and legalize gay marriage during this session. They should not mistake the voter’s reluctance to amend the Constitution with an open embrace of gay marriage.

Gun control is another hot-button issue in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.  There is much that can still be done to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.  It is my hope that taking guns away from law-abiding normal people is not one that we consider.  Should it be harder for criminals to get guns? Yes. Do we need to do a better job of identifying and treating mental illness?  Absolutely.  Do we need to ban specific sizes and shapes of firearms? I don’t think so.

Public Education is a cornerstone of Democracy.  And education electorate is vital to the survival of our country, and I am all for making people smarter.  However, we keep pouring more and more and more money into the education system and seeing little improvement.  The Current will champion any leader from any party that has the courage to step forward and talk about making public education better & cheaper instead of constantly crying for more money.

Cheaper.  Not draconian budget cuts or budgeting gimmicks or dubious consolidation plans, but a real discussion of why it costs so much to educate a grade-school kid, and why a teenager should have to mortgage their future to get a Bachelor’s degree. The national average for a 4-year degree is around $50,000.  There are efforts underway in other states to design and implement a $10,000 program.  Public education finance is most certainly broken. Instead of continuing to pump money into a broken system, we should look for a better way.