Lawmakers and the governor spent much of Tuesday trying to spin the just-concluded legislative session. For the most part, newspaper editorial boards weren't buying it. The DFL legislators, the Republican minority and Gov. Tim Pawlenty all received failing grades.
A look at some of today's judgments:
The St. Cloud Times:
Of course, he's successful with it thanks largely to just enough Republican legislators who either are so enamored with "no new taxes" they don't read their own local property tax bills, or they are politically fearful of what Pawlenty will do to them should they vote against his fiscal wishes.
Either way, they failed to do their jobs.
And then there is the DFL and its leadership.
From the day he delivered his State of the State speech, they were incessantly critical of the governor's budgeting plans, but noticeably short on their own detailed solutions. Beyond across-the-board cuts, they seemed to offer few ideas that truly reformed how the state does business.
Minnesotans deserve better than a DFL-controlled House and Senate jamming a tax bill through the Legislature late Monday and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who threatens to make cuts on his own, on budget and the DFL tax bill.
In a time when the state needed leaders with vision and the ability to have spirited, healthy debate on issues which will shape our state for years to come, we got partisan bickering, stubbornness and, it seems, no one with an ability or voice strong enough to ask the Legislature to think beyond the next year or two.
The governor might think he's won because he will exercise his constitutional authority to cut and modify the budget to his liking, and will do so without going along with Democratic tax increases. But Democrats also are smiling because they believe they can blame the governor, not their own legislative failure, for the deep cuts in vital funding that will be felt in every city, school district and college campus in the state.
If the governor and his Democratic antagonists see the legislative stalemate as a win-win situation in political terms, they should understand that the people of Minnesota are the losers. The governor and Democratic leaders should be embarrassed not only by wasting 19 weeks in St. Paul, but also by engaging in a dizzying, post-session spin cycle regarding their culpability.
How state funding is distributed is now in the hands of one person, rather than determined through a series of compromises by many leaders.
Good? Bad? That's up to you, but most people vote for legislators because they want representation. For a Republican Party worrying a lot lately about disenfranchised voters, it sure seems to be a move that will disenfranchise voters.
While I agree that the people of Minnesota come out the real losers here, I don't agree that Democrat legislators as a whole did a poor job. They were faced with a huge problem and went about it with a balanced approach, adressing spending, a few accounting shifts which tend to drive me crazy, and some new revenue. To say they wouldn't compromise with the governor is absurd. Compromise with governor meant my way or highway this session.
While the no additional taxes sounds like a good idea, you have to look at the fact that many of the usual revenue streams were not producing as much revenue due to the economy. The government does have the same purpose as a business or even a family. Government provides basic services to the people and a safety net to those who fall victim to this econmic crisis. In times of crisis, the needs of the state are more and the 'tighten your belt' idea falls apart. That's not to say that there may not be waste in some government programs, but they have been belt tightening for years. At some point most of the fat is gone and what's left to cut is muscle. How could the legislature do anyting but send through their tax bill at the last minute? They were trying to find something to appease a governor who wouldn't budge an inch to protect the millionaires of this state from having to pay a share of their income similar to what the rest of us are paying.
Honestly, nothing bothers me more in this debate than people who blithely intone "Families in MN are tightening their belts, and so should government." I'm sorry, but as someone whose belt can't get much tighter, I have to respond with this: What, other than a state safety net, do you think those belt-tightening families are relying on?! I grew up in a Minnesota where the richest among us could tighten up and forgo that third bass boat in order to make sure the workforce had the health care necessary to show up at their jobs and be productive. Where a millionaire could maybe tighten the budget down to only two overseas vacations so that poor kids could get an education and become contributing members of society. Don't talk to me about belt tightening if you're making more than about $40K. If you're making more than $250,000 as a couple, which was the threshold for this bill, cut me off some of that belt so I can breathe again.