While we were paying attention to the Franken-Coleman recount, the start of the Minnesota legislative session snuck up on us. It starts on Tuesday and, of course, slashing a state budget deficit is job one.
The Legislature has set up a Web page to accept suggestions, unfortunately they're not letting us see the submissions.
In many cases, people submit proposals to eliminate that which they already had a philosophical disagreement with, and the suggestions aren't always practical.
In Northfield, the Locally Grown blog has been kicking this around with area residents. Most of it is purely philosophical and the discussion lays bare the fact that talking philosophy is easier than talking specifics.
Former state Rep. Ray Cox has suggested the Legislature eliminate the spending it increased last year, or at least roll back the per diem increases legislators gave themselves. That, of course, is purely symbolic. But not all of the suggestions have been. Consider these:
But what to cut? That's the hard part and something will be cut.
The legislative session by constitution ends on May 18. If history is any indication, final decisions will be put off until around then.
Raising revenue will be damned difficult, because the backlash you saw back in better times will only be magnified in hard times.
Cuts will almost necessarily hit K-12, since it's nearly half the budget - it would be hard to make progress without touching it. But that will create a massive outcry.
My sense is that to get a feeling as to what is politically feasible we have to watch and wait a while. Whatever is done will be difficult, so what will matter most is what appears vulnerable. I can't tell what that is until the session starts (if I manage to get a read on it then).
Two words: Legalize marijuana.
Two more words: Tax it.
And please--spare me the "assassin of youth" arguments. Those went out of style in the last century. This is a tax hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans would be all too happy to pay--and don't stop at medical pot. Let's get real about this for once.
Several suggestions, some big and some small.
1. The legislature increased their own budget nearly 20% in the last go round. Cut that. Include reducing per diem payments and gas mileage reimbursements. Small potatos? They will be looking in seat cushions for loose change, ANY cuts here will mean that other cuts will not have to be made.
2. Any program that serves non-residents (legal or illegal) that is not required by the feds should be eliminated.
3. Health care programs. Minnesota programs are near the top of the list when it comes to generosity. Many of the services offered are optional under federal quidelines. Take a very close look at these.
Specifically, General Assistance Medical Care is a program for those how do not qualify for medical assistance or MinnCare. There are 34,000 adults in GAMC. They are able bodied, childless and not working. Minnesota has been the only state to offer such a benefit. Cut it.
Think that's tough? Enacting these cuts would not take care of 10% of the projected deficit.
The state would benefit in the long run if we could encourage purchase of products made in MN by MN companies. For instance, Duluth Pack sells computer bags and wallets - why buy an item from an overseas manufacturer when you could support a Minnesota firm and Minnesota families who depend on that firm for income.
E-85 is produced in MN - encourage more drivers to use it! The state fleet has increased their use of E85 steadily - but I feel very strongly the extensive network of E-85 stations in this state could be a much greater source of transportation fuels in the state fleet.
Put folks on the dole to work! In the current economic environment the rest of us can't afford to carry a large section of the population that just isn't willing to work. This whole business of companies hiring foreign workers because US citizens aren't willing to do certain jobs is a bunch of baloney. These people aren't willing to do those jobs because it's easier to sit home, crank out more illegitimate children and collect their dole. Hey, if they went hungry a few times, my bet is they'd show up for work just to collect their dole - how hard is that?
Tie dole payments more carefully to MN produced food, clothing and other necessities.
Anyone collecting dole money should NOT be allowed to purchase tobacco or alcohol - and if caught in a DUI situation should lose their dole for an extended period - might change where some of the dole $$ gets spent.
About a year ago I stood in the grocery line behind a woman chatting on her cell phone - and it wasn't business! I was insensed when she paid for most of her groceries with food stamps. Yes, that's a Federal program, but why should I feed her so she can have the luxury of a cell phone.
How about putting a tax on unnecessary surgery only the rich can afford like hair transplants, tummy tucks, plastic or cosmetic surgery, botox injections for cosmetic purposes.