Jason George, business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, released the following statement Wednesday, May 25, in response to the Minnesota Legislature’s failure to complete its work during the regular legislative session:
“The regular session of the Minnesota Legislature ended this week, and I am angry and disappointed to report to our members next to nothing got done. Unfortunately, our top priorities — which were matching dollars for federal infrastructure money, full dedication of auto parts sales tax to road and bridge funding, and a robust bonding bill — all fell victim to a colossal failure of judgment by left-wing members of the House DFL Caucus in St. Paul.
“The state of Minnesota is sitting on $9 billion of taxpayer money. Leaders had a duty to give some of it back to taxpayers and make strategic investments in our infrastructure and other areas of importance. Conditions were perfect for an agreement that moved Minnesota forward in a practical way. Instead, the situation blew up because some chose to stick to their positions of ideological purity at the expense of practical progress.
“During the negotiations for transportation funding, two parties demonstrated common sense and a practical approach while leaving deal-killing policy issues behind. I want to thank Gov. Tim Walz and Senate Republican Majority Leader Jeremy Miller for displaying the pragmatic leadership our state needs and truly working to find a path forward. Both were willing to do hard things to get a deal done on funding infrastructure improvements in our state. Tragically, their negotiating partners in the House DFL showed no leadership at all. They walked away from a fair deal and stuck to policy items they knew did not have broad support to become law.
“The deals for transportation funding and bonding should have been easy. Leaders in both parties wanted to do a bonding bill, as did the governor. There was bipartisan support for the auto parts sales tax dedication to fund road and bridge construction — the Senate passed the measure 59-7, with a strong majority of Senate Democrats voting for it. Senate Republicans offered to fund transit in a meaningful way, which was a top priority for the House DFL. Everyone agreed with matching federal dollars for infrastructure, as not doing so leaves millions for other states to take from us.
“And yet we have no deal because ideologues in the House DFL put their own politics ahead of progress and would not let their leadership agree to commonsense provisions.
“Washington D.C. Democrats managed to put ideological purity aside to get a deal done on infrastructure, because it was the right thing for the country — Minnesota House Democrats couldn’t muster the courage to do so. If this result stands, Minnesota will lose out on millions of dollars of federal funding, lose an opportunity to secure a stable future funding source for road and bridge construction, and miss an opportunity to rebuild our state through bonding.
“Hearing a union direct such frank comments at Democrats might surprise some. But we are a different kind of union. We aren’t beholden to one political party or the other. We don’t cover for politicians when they fail to do their jobs. We are for commonsense measures that put us to work building our region. When they don’t get done, and there is a clear reason why, we hold those who choose politics over progress accountable. We have been critical of our Republican friends when they fail the people, and we will do the same with our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle.
“I hope that in the coming weeks practical members of the House DFL will rise up and support their leadership taking deals on infrastructure that were on the table. If this doesn’t happen, there will be no excuse, the failure is theirs.”