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DFL talking restraint but now has to show it

Really, they can do anything they want.

For the first time in more than 20 years, Minnesota's Democratic Farmer Labor Party is about to assume full control of both the state Legislature and the governor's office. So it comes as little surprise that some with the DFL, as well as others who consider themselves DFL-chummy and who may be hoping to cash in, are acting as giddy as kids on Christmas morning.

"The line will be long and the proposals expensive," the St. Paul Pioneer Press said in an editorial this month.

Expensive, indeed, as evidenced by spending proposals already being made — before new lawmakers are even sworn in and the DFL is even in charge. Among the proposals are $634 million for education finance; $150 million for early-childhood education; and a whopping $50 billion for roads and transit. And that's just an early list.

In addition, the pressure to raise taxes is mounting, led by the state's large, powerful and DFL-aligned public-employee unions. AFSCME and the AFL-CIO are seeking tax increases of at least $6 billion "to . pay for the things Minnesotans care about," as Forum Communications' Don Davis reported this month.

DFL leadership is even talking about a bonding bill this 2013 legislative session, never mind that such borrowing for public-works and community projects typically only happens during even-numbered years when lawmakers and the governor aren't on the hook to write and approve a two-year budget. Passing a budget is a session-packing chore in itself.

To his credit, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has agreed to hold off on discussing a bonding bill until at least February, when the state's financial forecast should be clearer. By then, Minnesota and other states should have a better feel how they'll be affected by federal budgeting, including the outcome of fiscal cliff negotiations. Also in February, a fresh state budget forecast will come out.

Offer credit, too, to those DFLers who are saying some of the right things about spending restraint and being responsible rather than reckless.

"There's going to be very little money to do anything new," Senate Majority Leader-elect Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, assured at a press briefing in St. Paul this month. "People are going to have to restrain themselves some." ...

The temptation promises to be as great as the pressure for DFLers to spend, to make up for Republican cutting and to try to do it all.

But just because a party in power can, really, do anything it wants, doesn't mean it should — certainly not if it wants to stay in power.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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