House minority leaders fight to find common ground
by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor
Bop! Bam! Wham! Slam! They may be in the minority, but House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Isanti County, and Deputy Minority Leader Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, team together to place their clout on Minnesota politics at the Legislature this 88th session.
Daudt and Loon don’t grace the State Office Building with capes, worn most prominently by Batman and Robin, but they have actively taken on the Democrats at Capitol City. They also have used conciliatory tactics to cause bipartisanship to exist between Democrats in control and Republicans in the minority.
The “bat phone” between Daudt and Loon is active as they plan their daily strategies to coexist with the Democrats and, at the same time, lead their caucus. Daudt, a Princeton High School graduate, is beginning his second term as an elected legislator. Loon, a mighty mite in legislative circles, is in her third term.
Leader Daudt said the Republicans’ number-one objective is to come up with a balanced budget.
“We differ just a bit with the governor,” he facetiously said. “His first swing was the wrong approach and I’m glad he pulled the sales taxes off the table,” Daudt said. The governor’s revised budget will make Minnesota less competitive and will negatively affect the government and the state, Daudt said.
Daudt and Loon share similar philosophies about the two political parties working together.
“We need to focus on things we can agree on, and we are ready to roll up our sleeves and do just that,” Daudt said.
One way the parties can work together is on a bonding bill, Daudt said. He insists that the bonding bill is not off the table of discussion. He said State Capitol improvement has to be included if a bonding bill is done. He mentioned a $110 million dollar figure.
Daudt also believes there is bipartisan support to do a special financing authority for an expansion project at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. It’s called Destination Medical Center.
“My hope is that the project will go,” Daudt said. He signed onto the bill.
Loon called the Mayo Clinic proposal a “super-TIF” (tax increment financing) type of model, characterizing the subsidy being sought as a tax break similar to large-scale tax increment financing, in which developments are subsidized with future tax revenues anticipated to be generated by the development being subsidized.
“I think Minnesotans are interested in a private-public partnership,” she said.
Early childhood programs are also areas where the parties can work together, leader Loon said. Early childhood programs provide scholarships and also empower parents, Loon explained.
Daudt said the same-sex marriage issue “deeply divides” Minnesotans. “We ignited it last year” with the proposed constitutional amendment, Daudt said. Voters shot down the amendment in last November election.
There is definitely a metro-rural divide on many issues, and it’s pointing to issues of agreement that the dynamic duo subscribes. They may be in the minority, but their youthful, aggressive presence is being noticed.
Howard Lestrud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org