As if on cue, the Star Tribune Editorial Board continues to come to the rescue of the new Minnesota Senate Building, which opens for use this month (“A worthy addition to State Capitol complex,” Jan. 8). Unfortunately, important facts are glossed over in the board’s zeal to provide political cover for this boondoggle.
Just to refresh the memories of taxpayers, who will be footing the bill for decades to come, the senate building was inserted into a tax bill in the waning days of the 2013 legislative session. Scant minutes were devoted to discussing the building, much less the actual need for it, before the DFL-controlled bodies approved it with near-zero GOP support.
And then, when $13 million of costs were deferred as a result of “user fees” from the senate building’s parking, media outlets dutifully reported how these savings had reduced the project’s overall cost to only $77 million. Praise was heaped high as backs were slapped.
But when someone with a calculator came up with the actual cost of the “user fee,” the “users” balked. Enter the public subsidies. Because for Minnesota state government, fees are for thee, but not for me.
In the same bill that created this unnecessary senate building, Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL raised fees and taxes on Minnesotans by well over $2 billion, in spite of GOP objections. Taxpayers rightfully complained. Dayton and the DFL turned a deaf ear to their pleas. But the minute we hear complaints from the “users,” our staff, we buckle. While I sympathize with staff members, Minnesotans are growing tired of this St. Paul double talk. Fact is, we rushed so fast to slam this senate building into the 2013 tax bill that we did not stop to consider the consequences.
Or perhaps this was the plan all along. When criticism of the overall cost of the senate building (even from Dayton) mounted, DFL legislators quickly announced a plan to put $13 million into a “user-financed” category to keep the project moving forward. Was this just a game of Three-Card Monte? More important, will the DFL try this again on the next big-ticket, controversial proposal?
And to dispel another myth, GOP senators have a very good reason for not moving into the new senate building: the taxpayer. It costs money (from the taxpayer) to move our staff and offices. And once the 2016 elections are completed, there will be another move. We save thousands of taxpayer dollars by not moving now and waiting until the end of the year.
This isn’t belligerence; just common sense — something painfully lacking in both St. Paul and Washington, D.C.
David Osmek, R-Mound, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.