With the Minnesota State Legislature set to resume Jan. 24, Patch spoke with House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (D-Richfield/Minneapolis) about the upcoming session, his priorities, his opinions on recent scandals and the Vikings stadium debate.
Patch: What are your top priorities for this upcoming legislative session?
Thissen: My top priority is doing everything we can to get people back to work and get the economy going again. Last week the DFL rolled out some proposals to get people into long-term careers, so I’m hopeful we can work with the Republicans to get it passed.
Patch: Are there any bills you authored in 2011 that are carrying over or new bills you plan to push in 2012 that you want your constituents to be aware of?
Thissen: I only introduced one bill last year, which passed into law. … [However] I do think this DFL jobs packet—and we’re open to input from the Republican party—is something that we need to get focused on and get passed. I’d also like to see some legislation passed that will give some property tax relief to residents in Minneapolis and Richfield.
Patch: Do you think this session will be more productive in light of the shutdown last summer?
Thissen: I think if there is a clear focus on the central thing of getting the economy going that we are going to have a productive session. However, if our focus shifts over to Constitutional amendments and things like that, then I think we experience some more gridlock like last year.
Patch: The state now has a reported $876 million surplus. How does that affect the budget focus in 2012?
Thissen: We don’t really have surplus. In 2013, we are facing $1.3 billion deficit on paper and that doesn’t include the money we’ve loaned to schools and so on. The budget, by any stretch of the imagination, has not been balanced and at the same time property taxes are going up. I think the year will run smoother, but I don’t think anybody should be under the impression that we have a surplus.
Patch: How do you think Gov. Dayton’s bonding bill should be structured to maximize job creation?
Thissen: I think the main thing to think about with the bonding bill is creating a plan for long-term job creation. Capital improvement projects—roads and bridges and transit—are important. Investments in higher education are going to be critical as well. I think it’s important to be focusing on the quality of life here, too—investing in civic centers. We need to ask ourselves what can we invest in today that will benefit us in the long-term.
Patch: Now that we are getting closer and closer to the 2012 election, and the time when voters will have to cast their vote for or against , what do you think the outcome will be?
Thissen: First of all, I think it’s a mistake that it’s even on the ballot. I am cautiously optimistic that people will side with opportunity. I’m hopeful that Minnesota will be the first state in the country to stand up for this. … This amendment goes against what our country is all about, which is equal treatment and opportunity for everybody.
Patch: The Republican Party in Minnesota has taken a few hits here in the last few months with regards to Sen. Amy Koch and former party chair, Tony Sutton. How do you think this will play out in the new session?
Thissen: Well I hope we can move on from some of the personnel issues. The more important thing for me is the ideas the Republican Party is standing up for. A lot of the fights happening in the legislature are the result of two very distinct visions on how we can move forward. Again, getting people back to work is a top priority and .
Patch: In November, and you said it didn’t rank as a priority for you, now that there has been more movement are you supporting a particular site?
Thissen: Since November, I think the main thing that has happened is that a lot of the different options have been taken off the table, which I think is productive because you can have some more meaningful discussions. I think the Minneapolis is more politically viable. For instance, the Republican leadership has said—and I think correctly—that they are not going to allow a local sales tax increase to go forward without a referendum. If that is the case if they have to go to a referendum, then I believe that proposal is viable.