Capitol inaction, secrecy expose MN good government myth. Again

It’s no surprise that the Minnesota Legislature has waited until the last minute to try to get any work done. The Legislature has increasingly gotten as dysfunctional as its federal counterpart in Washington in recent years, reaching a new level of paralysis in this session.

When it comes to open government, Minnesota spends far too much time patting itself on the back.

Very little legislation has advanced in this session, with the transportation bill hung up over funding for light-rail in the southwest metro.

Even legislation spurred by the case of a woman who got hit in the face with a beer mug because she wasn’t speaking English couldn’t get through this crowd, even though both the House and Senate favored it.

Expanded access to mental health care is likely to fall into the sinkhole of inertia this year, to the consternation of the Star Tribune’s editorial board today. It apparently has bipartisan support, but lawmakers have fiddled for so many weeks that they’re too busy going nowhere on the transportation issue to consider it.

Bonding bills have come out of the dark in the last few weeks to fail on floor votes.

After months of inaction, suddenly a big increase in license tab fees emerges in proposals from both sides in recent days while most of Minnesota isn’t paying much attention.

There’s a legitimate public debate to be had on transportation funding, tab fees, and the balance between roads and transit, but it’ll only happen in the opinion pages of newspapers.

Stephen Neiswanger’s letter in today’s Star Tribune forms the basis of what could have been a great floor debate… months ago.

As a deputy registrar, I am a bit concerned about the discussion to raise more revenue by increasing license tab fees. Tab fees are tied incrementally to the initial base value of a vehicle, then the cost of the tabs is slowly reduced year by year as the vehicle gets older.

As an example, if a 2016 vehicle has a base value of $20,500 today, the tabs would cost $258. If that same vehicle had a base value when it was new five years ago of $19,300, the tabs would have been $243 at that time. The Star Tribune gave an example of a new car as costing $15,000, which would be a price that anyone would find hard-pressed to discover.

As vehicles become more expensive, the revenue from tabs increases. In addition, most counties have now instituted a wheelage tax of $10.

This revenue goes directly to the counties in which the vehicle is kept and is designated for road and bridge construction and repair. This additional tax is added onto the tabs every time the vehicle registration is renewed.

The citizens of the state are burdened with registration fees that are seen by many as excessive. I hear this daily, as do all of the individuals who work in this field. I would find it concerning should this plan go beyond the stage of ideas being discussed but not necessarily thought through.

Over the next couple of days, all of this will be settled in closed-door meetings. Reporters will stake out offices for a shred of information, an agreement will be rushed to the floor while most people are getting their beauty sleep, the Legislature will quickly pass the agreement, the governor will sign it.

And lawmakers will rush home for the summer, declaring while it wasn’t pretty, they got their job done.

Archive: When legislators don’t know what they’re doing (NewsCut)