Remarkably long session was supposed to be short and sweet
What was supposed to be a short, simple year in St. Paul turned into anything but thanks to hard work on the state bonding bill and a long stalemate over funding a new stadium for the Vikings, said state Rep. Kim Norton.
Along with Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, Norton spoke Thursday night at the League of Women Voters-sponsored 2012 legislative review at the Rochester Public Library.
"Going into the session, all the talk was about jobs," Norton said, who is the House assistant minority leader. "It was a bonding year. We were going to focus on jobs. It was going to be a short session. That didn’t happen."
In fact, Norton said, the legislative session lasted from January until mid-May, making it the third longest session in state history.
For Senjem, the session will be remembered for ending with a surplus for the state.
"The pressure now we have is what do we do with this," he said. "How do we manage the surplus?" Some of it is committed to school funding.
"We think there will be 300 million to 400 million additional dollars probably going back to the schools in November or December," Senjem said.
Stadium and civic center
Senjem and Norton said they eventually supported the funding of a new Vikings stadium.
"That was a bunch of theater there, I’ll tell you," Senjem said of the haggling over whether to spend public money on a new stadium. "But the Minnesota Vikings are important to Minnesota. They are an important aspect of our culture."
Norton said she's usually opposed to funding sports stadiums, and "I polled my constituency, and it was about 50-50."
Both legislators said one of their biggest disappointments was that the state did not fund renovations at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. When it became apparent that the Legislature wouldn't fund the civic center addition, Senjem said, he hoped the project would get a grant from a pool of money set aside by the Legislature and allocated by the governor. Again, the civic center was passed over.
"A lot of money was spent in the Twin Cities area," Norton said. "I understand that’s where half the population is, but when you’re looking at the Capitol improvements, the Vikings and the (stadium for the St. Paul) Saints, and a lot of the roads and bridges projects, I, personally, would like to see more jobs statewide."
Norton and Senjem said they look forward to the next session, and both have plenty of bills from 2012 they will continue to push in 2013.
"One of the things I’m trying to do is make Minnesota more jobs friendly," Senjem said. "I think we have to start looking at that."