Mayo was right in Minnesota; Disney was right in Florida

Bipartisanship disappeared in both Minnesota and Florida this spring.

And in both states, major employers have risen up and lashed out at the extreme positions taken by politicians.

The Minnesota Legislature just wrapped up a session in which lawmakers from the dominant Democratic Party increased state spending by 37% and enacted a series of progressive policies.

In Florida’s Republican-dominated state chamber, lawmakers this month approved a 6.3% budget increase and new restrictions on abortion, gender-related health care and its “Don’t Say Gay” law that applies to the schools.

When I took on the role of business columnist earlier this year, I knew there would be times when I would have to write that a business making a move in their interest was justified. This is one of those moments.

In Minnesota, Mayo Clinic was right to fight a bill that gave nurses far greater power in running hospitals. And in Florida, Disney was right to fight Gov. Ron DeSantis’ punitive measures.

First, let’s focus on the matter at home. Since the November election gave Minnesota Democrats control of the Senate while retaining the House and the governor’s office, they have been living a fever dream.

The economic recovery from the pandemic has blessed our state government with much higher-than-expected revenue, adding about $10 billion to the multi-billion-dollar build-up over the past decade as revenue outpaced spending.

Democrats spent the lion’s share. They also inundated workers with policies that will increase their influence with Minnesota employers, hastening a shift in the balance of power in the workplace that the demographics had already begun.

As part of that push, Democrats were aiming to implement a policy that the Minnesota Nurses Association had been seeking since 2008: greater participation in the number of nurses working in a hospital.

Nurses do a job that is more difficult than most would dare to assume. During the pandemic, they did so amid immense uncertainty over a new virus.

And for years before that, nurses have also borne, like flight attendants, restaurant servers, and police officers, the brunt of a vulgar society. Data shows that hospitals have become more violent.

However, as important as they are, nurses should not decide when a hospital is not providing the appropriate level of care. That’s what the nurses union wanted and what Democratic lawmakers were willing to give them until the Mayo Clinic threatened earlier this month to halt some planned expansions in the state.

The legislation called for all Minnesota hospitals to create committees, with nurses filling 35% of the seats, that would set staffing levels. They would have to resort to arbitration if the committees do not agree.

That would essentially hand control of a hospital away from executives and boards of directors, which they would not and should not accept. Hierarchies exist for a reason. They are efficient and put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of a few.

The perception among many nurses, and one that her union tried to create with the public, is that hospitals are profiting while nursing is understaffed.

Many hospitals are not profitable these days for reasons that go far beyond staffing. May is profitable. But Allina, Fairview and North Memorial, to name a few hospitals in the Twin Cities, are losing money.

The legislation died Monday night. After that, lawmakers and the head of the Minnesota Nurses Association, Mary Turner, spoke seriously to reporters. Turner compared hospital executives to violent patients who harm nurses.

Similarly, in Florida, DeSantis’ feud with Disney is made up of false assumptions, innuendo, and misbegotten bravado. Last month, Republican lawmakers stripped the company of self-governing authority in its resort district near Orlando, its biggest punishment ever against Disney for opposing “Don’t Say Gay” restrictions on teaching in Florida schools.

Disney sued the state and last week backed out of plans for a billion-dollar expansion there.

Disney is not the only one hurt. This week, Steve Schussler, the Minneapolis restaurant entrepreneur who has several businesses at Disney Springs in Florida, told the BBC he feels “disgusted and betrayed” by the taxes DeSantis wants to impose on the Disney resort area.

Finally, a few words about the Minnesota state budget.

The 37% increase breaks the 20-30% range I calculated in Sunday’s column comparing hypergrowth in the Minnesota government to poor growth in the state economy. It is the largest jump in state spending since a 39% jump for the 1976-77 biennium.

For the 2024-25 fiscal year beginning July 1, state spending is set at $71.5 billion and revenue will be approximately $61 billion. The difference is covered by transferred money that was not spent in previous years.

State spending in the 2026-27 biennium will for now be reduced to $66 billion, with revenue rising to around $65 billion. We’ll see in 2025, when lawmakers formally prepare that budget, if they stick to that.