Fear and panic may be the words for now to express how Republicans, conservatives, and business leaders such as Charlie Weaver view the coming 2013 Minnesota legislative session. The fear and panic is that with the DFL having control of the legislature and all of the constitutional offices, businesses and the affluent will face higher taxes, the economy will go to ruin, and the Chamber of Commerce will not be able to pursue objectives such as restructuring teacher tenure, public sector pensions, or state government in general.
Have no fear though, it is unlikely that the DFL control will live up to your anxieties for many reasons.
First, this is not the DFL Party of Humphrey, Mondale, Freeman, and Wellstone. This is a DFL party headed by a pro-business governor and a party firmly rooted in the Twin Cities suburbs such as Edina. These districts are business-orientated and affluent and it is unlikely that DFLers from areas such as Edina will stray far to the left. Democrats elected in these suburbs are not liberals, they won tight races in swing districts and any serious move to the left will cost them their seats and possibly a House majority in 2014.
Second, were the DFL majority moving to the left it would have made John Marty chair of Health and Human Services. Marty, who supports a single-payer health insurance program, has the seniority to receive this chair but was passed over for this position. Don’t look to see the DFL push real progressive positions.
Third, a DFL governor and coalition already demonstrated this year its pro-business attitude when it gave the Vikings and the business community a new stadium.
Fourth, the business community has already overreached and many of its goals are beyond what they should be addressing. Issues such as teacher tenure are beyond what the business community should worry about, especially if it concerned about the quality of K-12. If the latter is the issue, then lobby for early-childhood education, fully funding K-12, addressing racial disparities in schools, and providing teachers, parents, and students with the support they need for kids to succeed.
Finally, live in reality. Consider the last time the DFL controlled the governor’s office and both houses of the Minnesota legislature. It was from 1987 to 1990 when Rudy Perpich was governor. Wanting to make Minnesota the brainpower state, the governor pushed for reforms in K-12 that helped make sure the state’s schools were among the best in the country and students tested at or near the top in national performances. It was a time when Minnesotans and businesses were among the highest taxed in the country, and also a time when Minnesota had one of the highest median family incomes in the nation, lowest crime and incarceration rates, and a high concentration of Fortune 500 companies.
Additionally, consider the unemployment rate during those four years. While the national average was 5.7%, in Minnesota it was 4.7%. Compare that to October, 2012, with a Minnesota unemployment rate of 5.8%.
Year USA MN
1987 6.2 5.1
1988 5.5 4.3
1989 5.3 4.4
1990 5.6 4.8
4 yr Avg 5.7 4.7
Oct 2012 7.9 5.8
Perpich opened up the International Trade Center in St Paul, and under him and the DFL control of the legislature, Dayton-Hudson Corporation (now Target) was able to pressure them to hold a special session in 1987 to change Minnesota corporate law to prevent them from being taken over by Dart Corporation.
The point? Minnesota and its businesses did not do so badly under the last time when the state was under DFL control. Now, 23 years later, a more moderate and business-friendly DFL is in charge. The evidence does not support the panic and fear the business community has and, in fact, it may find a supportive party willing to accommodate them in many situations.