Minnesota, Wisconsin Leaders Hope for Local Legislative Success

Baihly Warfield
Updated: February 20, 2018 05:33 PM

As the Minnesota legislative session gets underway in St. Paul, the spotlight is on northwestern Wisconsin in Madison. 

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Tuesday marked Day 2 of Superior Days at the Wisconsin Capitol. It's Superior Mayor Jim Paine's first one as leader of the city. 

Paine said they have several priorities, one being transportation. 

"We are losing the opportunity to provide jobs to people in Duluth and to provide employers to people in Superior because there's a problem with transportation," Paine said. 

He looks at it as a workforce development problem and hopes the state may support a public transportation route in the future. 

"The Duluth Transit Authority is not very efficient at getting people reliably and efficiently to Superior," Paine said. "That is our problem. That is not the DTA's problem. We need to fund public transportation and manage it better than we do."

He also wants people at the state level to understand the Superior community is on board with the Nemadji Trail Energy Center project.

"We want the Public Service Commission to know that this project has wide support within the community and that the company is working very well with community and area leaders," Paine said. 

While he was meeting with the transportation secretary and others on those projects, Minnesota state representatives were beginning their 2018 legislative session. 

Rep. Liz Olson (DFL-Duluth) is feeling confident about a local transportation-related issue -- the half-percent street sales tax. 

"With the voter support of it being over 70 percent and a priority of the mayor as well as the Chamber of Commerce and others, I feel good going into session with where it's positioned," Olson said. 

Plus, this session is likely going to have a tax theme. 

"Being there was a big tax bill passed this year at the federal level with lots of changes, it's going to take us quite awhile to do a deep dive in what this means for Minnesota and where we conform and where we don't," Olson said. 

Sen. Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids) said Gov. Mark Dayton doesn't like tax bills, so he is doubtful the legislature will pass anything more than tax conformity on the tax front.

"Bare minimum ... we have to do the conformity or we're going to see Minnesotans paying more money," Eichorn said. 

Even years are typically bonding years. Eichorn is on the bonding committee, and he said it is unlikely Dayton's $1.5 billion bonding bill will be supported. 

However, Eichorn said he and other senators saw some good, needed projects on the bonding tour and he hopes legislators can pass a bill this session. 

"If the bill gets to the point where we're not funding swimming pools and civic centers, and we're actually funding stuff that has a state or regional significance, I think we see a better opportunity that that's passed," Eichorn said. 

Both Eichorn and Olson urged their constituents to reach out to them throughout the session and let them know about local concerns. 

The Minnesota legislative session should finish by May 21, and Superior Days wraps up Wednesday. 


Baihly Warfield

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