My public policy mood ring


Today, with Governor Dayton and a new legislature assuming their duties, I’m optimistic. Hmm. That’s…that’s a little strong. Okay, maybe I’m cautiously optimistic. Maybe, yes, “cautiously optimistic” better describes my feelings on this first day, with a Democratic governor and Republican-controlled chambers.

Yes, I’m cautiously optimistic that rhetorical pledges will, indeed, inform actions and that the bipartisan spirit of cooperation will guide public policy development and implementation.

Now that I think about it, maybe “cautiously optimistic” isn’t quite right. Perhaps, guardedly optimistic is better. That means I retain hope, believing eight years of conservative policy, championed by the very policymakers now controlling the State House and State Senate, will be tempered by the knowledge that Governor Pawlenty’s “no new taxes” approach simply dug Minnesota into a deeper, less stable hole.

So, no, I think I need to strike “optimistic” because I’m not actually optimistic that Speaker Zellers and Majority Leader Koch’s caucuses will change their approach. I think I’ll go back to “cautiously something.” And, with a bit more thought, I’m not cautiously something about the prospect of compromise.  In fact, I’m deeply skeptical.

Minnesota needs to raise revenue, reduce spending and expand the tax base through a shared commitment to a balanced approach. For the past eight years, Minnesota only cut state budgets, forcing communities and schools to raise property taxes to maintain community services.

Minnesota’s conservative policymakers refused to consider raising revenues, causing considerable pain without bearing similar responsibilities. They maintained the illusion of no new tax increases while compelling dramatic property tax growth.

After some thought, I’m feeling guarded again. Not “cautiously guarded” but “guarded” because I’m an optimist. My glass is half full, not half empty. And, really, it’s best that way. If I thought too long or too hard about the conservative policy agenda’s impact on Minnesota, I might wrap myself in a quilt, curl up on the sofa with a tray of Nutter Butters and watch “The Dean Martin Show” episodes on DVD for the next five months. But, pulling back, as we’ve learned for the past eight years, won’t move Minnesota forward so I’ll save my couch time for the future.

Now, there’s policy work enough for everyone. I am optimistic about that.