The national election may have preserved the status quo, with Obama still in the White House, and the House and Senate split between the Republicans and Democrats, but here in Minnesota the political tide shifted dramatically.
Republicans lost control of the House and Senate in the Legislature, and with DFLer Mark Dayton in the governor's office, Minnesota taxpayers' wallets now lie defenseless. Dayton was elected two years ago by promising he would balance the budget by raising taxes. Only the new Republican majority in the House and Senate stood in his way.
What caused the voters to shift power back to the Democrats? First, they were unable to reach any kind of agreement or compromise with the governor on the state budget, leading to the longest government shutdown in the state's history. Their ultimate compromise included a change in the Homestead property tax system that shifted a major portion of the property tax burden onto businesses and industries. Republicans also lost their promised "laser focus on jobs, jobs, jobs." Instead they focused on imposing their ideology on the state with a pair of ultimately unsuccessful constitutional amendments that galvanized and energized the liberal voters to oppose the amendments and the legislators who passed them.
So now the DFL is solidly in control of the government for the next two years. We warn the new majority not to take this election as a blank check for limitless state spending. We expect there will be some adjustments in the state's tax system. The "no tax increase" pledge that Republicans have held to served to push more costs onto local government, pushing up the level of property taxes, and it has punished our public schools. We believe the state's tax system is long overdue for an overhaul to make it fairer.
But the GOP must remind the DFL that the state cannot afford a big spending spree. Hold the line on spending, or they could be facing another shift in power in two years.