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Editorial — Show statesmanship by compromising

Imagine your family budget hit a rough spot and there weren’t enough funds to cover rising expenses. What would you do?

Well, some of us would tighten the belt and cut spending. Others of us would seek an additional source of income — a second job, perhaps.

Under the leadership of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who took office five years ago in exactly such a scenario, Minnesota has taken the first course of action. Pawlenty has rejected additional sources of income — tax increases — as a way to fund the state. The state’s belt has been tightened. Pawlenty’s philosophy, shared by many, is that government needs to be lean, whether times are hard or, as they are now, flush.

On the other hand, few enterprises, including private business, can long survive if denied the opportunity to expand their source of income. At some point, infrastructure needs to be updated, new technology needs to be put in place, employees must be given a wage increase and customers must be offered quality products. If not, the enterprise withers away.

That, at least, is the argument put forth by Democrats, who were placed in charge of both houses of the Minnesota Legislature by voters last November. They say the state has needs — upgrades, new products and services, more customers — that can only be met with an infusion of additional revenue. So they propose tax increases, primarily on the state’s wealthiest citizens.

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It’s a classic, textbook battle between differing philosophies of governing and government.

Both sides, however, miss the key element of our way of government — compromise.

Governors are supposed to lead. But leadership requires more than saying "No," which appears to be this governor’s way of dealing with what the Legislature proposes.

At the same time, legislative leaders have fallen victim to their own overreaching, trying to grab as many special projects and funding increases as their imaginations will allow.

What’s needed now is not two sides drawing lines in the sand, but a real display of statesmanship. Voters expect a certain amount of disagreement in St. Paul. But they also have a right to expect that serious discussion, give-and-take and compromise will ultimately lead to what’s best for the entire state.

So far in this legislative session, we’ve seen precious little beyond posturing. Now it’s time for the governor and legislators to do the people’s business in a manner that earns and deserves the people’s respect.

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