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Pioneer Editorial: Cheers and Jeers

Vigorous debates on tap for Minnesota

Late last week, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton provided an overview of his priorities for the next two years.

The top goal for everyone will be enacting a two-year budget – but expect plenty of fireworks.

The governor wants to deal with a projected deficit in part by proposing increased taxes on upper-income filers.

An economic forecast said the state has the capacity to borrow $1.3 billion for construction projects over the next two years. However, borrowing bills require a 60 percent vote from the Legislature.

That means Republicans will still have a say in the state’s fiscal matters.

Social issues also likely will be a topic of debate.

The governor opposes decriminalizing marijuana possession for medical or recreational use, despite recent steps by other states to relax laws.

Expect a vigorous debate, particularly from medical marijuana advocates who describe end-of-life care. Without support from the state’s law enforcement community, Dayton doesn’t plan to give in.

However, he told the Associated Press wants to expand gay rights by giving public employees access to domestic partner-benefits as part of their next contract. Expect more vigorous debate, particularly from Republicans.

Last month, voters defeated a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage in the state constitution.

Heart healthy

Sanford Bemidji Medical Center will open its new cardiology suite next month, providing care for local patients around the clock.

The cardiology department currently sharing a lab for its work, but the 6,450-square-foot Heart and Vascular Center will provide a dedicated lab for doctors’ use 24 hours, seven days a week.

The center will house a dedicated catheterization lab, six beds for prep and recovery, five clinic exam rooms, two diagnostic testing rooms, a diagnostic reading room, a patient-education suite, work stations for physicians and a registration and scheduling lobby.

The addition is a major plus for area heart patients.

Lack of tax support

For months the idea of a hospitality tax in Bemidji has been lingering.

The proposed tax, footed by patrons at area hotels and restaurants, has been discussed as a means for offsetting expenses for the city-owned Sanford Center.

It idea, which requires legislative approval, has some merit.

However, the position by the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, which is reticent in offering up full support for the tax, also has merit.

Lori Paris, the Chamber’s president, said members believe more funding options for the Sanford Center need to be explored.

 While a hospitality tax appears shelved for now, the city and its business community will continue talking about how the Sanford Center can be more successful.