Counterpoint: Let Minnesota Republicans run on their records

The following commentary by House Minority Leader Paul Thissen appears in the StarTribune September 4, 2015 issue:

They won’t have much to brag about in earnest. Maybe that’s why one of their promoters is trashing Hillary Clinton.

Paul ThissenMark Drake, president of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, recently took to these pages to lay out the case for electing legislative Republicans in 2016: Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers (“For Minnesotans, Clinton may end up being damaged goods,” Aug. 28).

Noticeably absent was any mention of the current House Republican majority’s record, or any ideas they’ve presented for the future of our state.

It’s exactly the kind of politics that most Minnesotans hate.

But the fact that Drake’s entire argument for returning Republicans to the Legislature in 2016 is that Hillary Clinton has — in his clearly biased view — run a bad campaign so far also tells you something about what Republicans have to run on next year.

Which is to say, not much.

Despite making big promises in the 2014 election and in the months leading up to the legislative session in 2015, the Republican majority in the Minnesota House has incredibly little to show for its time here.

In fact, most of the accomplishments Republican legislators are currently touting in their districts — from increased funding for schools to new money (albeit very little) for broadband grants — are thanks only to Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative DFLers.

In reality, legislative Republicans failed at nearly every turn to deliver for the hardworking Minnesota families they so often mention in canned talking points and political speeches.

Instead, Republicans pushed an agenda that put corporate special interests first. Not coincidentally, those same interests bankroll organizations like the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, of which Drake is president and which spent untold sums of dark money to elect those very Republican legislators.

And what did those Republicans do once they got here?

They repeatedly blocked DFL efforts to increase campaign-finance disclosure, refusing to shine a light on the millions of dollars of spending by big, outside special-interest groups like the Jobs Coalition.

Republicans pushed for billions in tax giveaways to the owners of corporate properties like the Mall of America and skyscrapers in downtown Minneapolis — despite the fact that many of those owners don’t even live in Minnesota.

Republicans called for just a 0.6 percent funding increase for our public schools, which would have resulted in cuts to classrooms despite a $2 billion budget surplus — all while blocking attempts to expand access to affordable, high-quality prekindergarten for middle-class Minnesota families.

And despite running on the notion that they were going to do big things for Greater Minnesota, Republicans attempted to zero the budget for broadband expansion, attempted to cut local government aid, cut proven job-creating and economic development programs, and failed to compromise on a transportation bill that would’ve invested billions in infrastructure improvements across the state.

If I were a big, outside special-interest group charged with electing Republican legislators with no real record of accomplishment and a long trail of broken promises, I suppose I’d try to change the subject, too.

Fortunately, I think Minnesotans are smarter than that.

I think those families who work hard every day to meet the demands of their family’s budget know that actions speak louder than words. They know that Republicans failed to take serious action on the issues that concern them most. From investing in quality early-childhood education to seriously addressing the cost of college, from instituting family-friendly workplace policies to ensuring access to a secure retirement, Republicans stood in the way.

In this context, just saying “no” just doesn’t cut it. And it doesn’t move our state forward.

That’s what Minnesotans will be — and should be — thinking about when they cast their ballots next year. And it’s why I believe voters will return a DFL majority to the Minnesota House in 2016.

State Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, is the Minnesota House minority leader.

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