Politics in Minnesota notes that former GOP speaker of the Minnesota House Steve Sviggum was just recognized with the 2008 Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
In typical Sviggum self-effacing fashion, the first thing he wanted to talk about was the fact that former DFL Sen. Roger Moe received the same award five years ago. "That speaks to the quality of people serving Minnesota," said Sviggum. He's right. That's rare for two top legislative leaders from one state to receive the award in such a short period of time. However, our readers know it also speaks to Moe and Sviggum, individually, and about a different time in our state's politics when legislative leaders from different political parties were each other's biggest fan clubs.
In February, Sviggum and Moe were paired in a Center of the American Experiment Luncheon Forum that was recently released in transcript form — "Can Politicians Hold to Principle Without Brutalizing Each Other?" [Download the pdf.]
A few excerpts from a dialog drenched in civility and mutual respect:
Pearlstein: Steve, have things gotten nastier?
Sviggum: For sure they have. And, honestly, I may have been part of it. I‘m going to state up front that none of us are lily white, and it always seems that when we‘re two or four or ten years removed, things were better back then. [...]
Roger and I have had a very civil relationship for a couple of reasons. First of all, I‘ve respected the man greatly, to the point of being in awe of him. And secondly, when we were on forums like this, we would try to outdo each other in relationship to who could use the words like "balance" or "in the best interest of Minnesota" more. [...]
Moe: I would just echo that—and the Speaker is right on—words matter. Words matter. And the choice of words matters. And it‘s too bad that we‘ve gotten to the point where both sides, rather than using words that pull us together, use words that drive us apart. That is a key factor in all of this.
Pearlstein: So things have gotten tougher. But does it mean anything? Has the state of Minnesota actually been hurt by it?
Moe: Well, let me read something. This is a letter from Moody‘s on Minnesota‘s bond rating: "Moody‘s currently maintains AA1 general obligation rating for the state of Minnesota, with a stable outlook. The AA rating is based on the state‘s low debt ratio, sound proven economy, basically strong industrial diversity, and healthy demographics and improving balance. These strengths are offset by the challenge of potential political gridlock, preventing the Legislature from reaching consensus towards budgets, including a state government shutdown that occurred in 2005 for 13 days."
So, yes. I mean, if you‘re ending up paying more in interest rates. This is quite shocking.