The governor and the DFL-controlled Legislature are now at full-scale war. Judging by some of the comments at the Capitol, the situation is being met with shock and surprise. Outside the Capitol, it's something we could see coming a mile away.
They didn't talk much -- at least face-to-face -- and it always seemed as though each was trying to navigate the other into a political corner. Watching some of the Capitol press corps' Twitter feeds on Thursday night, it appears the discussion is more about who this "plays" better for politically, rather than what's in the best interest of Minnesotans who don't make their living by getting elected or appointred to state government gigs.
Politics in Minnesota's Steve Perry provided a transcript of an exchange between the combatants that does not inspire confidence on Main St., Minnesota.
Hanson: "Rep. Sertich, if you have another idea, we're listening."
Sertich: "Commissioner Hanson, you use words like 'agreement' and 'mutual' as if you mean them, and I don't believe you, quite honestly. What I hear you say on agreement is, we want you to agree with what the governor says, and if you don't do that, we'll go it alone. I don't share the optimism from around this table. I don't think this is funny.... If the governor goes it alone and has it his way, 113,000 Minnesotans will lose health insurance. Sixteen thousand Minnesotans will lose their jobs, and there will be cuts in education and higher tuition. That's not funny. That's not an agreement. I'm not optimistic."
Hanson: "Well, Rep. Sertich, your version of agreement is us doing exactly what you want."
Sertich: "That's not true. We're looking for compromise. We have compromised in many of these bills to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. We've cut more than you've cut. We've lowered our revenue [proposal] down to the revenue that the governor has stated is needed to balance this budget."
And now the fallout comes, and it's hit the poor first. MPR's Tom Scheck reports the governor has removed $381,081,000 in general assistance, essentially rolling up the safety net for about 33,000 (number according to Rep. Paul Thissen via Twitter).
Let's talk about this but let's do it a little differently. Let's put aside the political sniping for a second and let's come up with a way to solve this problem.
(Bob is not writing on Friday)
Here's my idea:
If you believe these programs should continue to exist, take the amount of money you would need to pay in increased taxes to fund them, and donate that much to these organizations (like schools/universities), or their private charity equivalents (in the case of welfare programs). If you strongly support these programs, donate more than you would have to pay in taxes to make up for the people who don't support them, but would have had to pay the taxes anyway.
If the people actually support the programs this way, they will be funded, and without government bureaucracy taking a cut out of it, or needing to wait for the budget to be approved. If people aren't willing to donate the money freely, then people don't actually support these programs in the first place, and any government that would pass them doesn't really represent the people.
(basically "The Law" by Frederic Bastiat in a minute or less)
If you are the guv, "solution" means cutting services, and programs until the projected revenue (it's a guess) matches the estimated (it's a guess) costs of the programs.
If you are the dfl legislative leaders "solution" means some tax increases, some program cuts, and some borrowing.
The guv styles himself a staunch protector of taxpayers but fails to see the connection between taxpayer and service consumer. The dfl are lousy sales people and have failed to convince the public that these cuts will mean real reductions in service.
The solution appears to be that the state will lose service and the voters get to decide which political philosophy they like better: a shared responsibility through progressive taxation or a self-centered isolationist protection of the wealthy.
Meanwhile be prepared for more homeless families, more layoffs in police and fire departments, more program cuts to effective solutions to long term problems, and more shrill nonsense from the mouthpieces of wealth and privilege.
Damn it's cold here. Let's go someplace warmer. At least we get to stand in line without freezing to death.
The fact is, it's easier for people to applaud King Pawlenty's healthcare cuts if you've never met a poor person-- never worked with them in our community-- never experienced their disparity with them.
I had tears when I heard of these cuts.
It's pretty easy to say they're a goog thing when you're priviledge allows you to retreat to Wayzata or North Oaks without having to experience their consequences.
Oh-- what would Jesus do, Religious right? Tell me that? What would Dorothy Day do about this budget shortfall??
I'm serious. Select a single leader who would act in the best interest of the people and send the others home.
That would be the most effective and streamlined system, but I don't think many people (including myself) want to go to this extreme for the sake of an efficient and streamlined government.
A more partical and achievable solution in these uberpartisan times is "single party government," which could be achived quickly if Pawlenty is defeated by a democrat, and the DFL continues to controls both houses.
If we don't like what the DFL does with power, throw the bums out and replace them with GOP bums.
Lather, rince, repeat...
I think the Governor's actions are going to produce an eventual solution. What the failure to compromise has accomplished is putting the Gov in the hotseat. The Lege isn't playing the accounting games with one time money. The Gov isn't accepting any new tax hikes. What this does is force the Governor to put up, or shut up. He now gets to pick which programs to cut or underfund, and the voters will get to find out what the Republicans mean by 'small government'. An MPR story yesterday pointed out how the executive branch hasn't followed their own 'hiring freeze' policy - demonstrating the difficulty of living up to promises of 'smaller government'. Well, without revenue, the Gov won't have a choice this time. There's another election 18 short months away. Voters are watching. Will we vote for 'small government' or will there be a renewed appetite for taxing and spending? Personally, I suspect the latter.
I don't think so. The Independence Party and the DFL will split the responsible government vote and
the Pawlenty Bachmanite minority will win again.
Has the DFL talked about a sales tax expansion? How about a Racino? How about being a little more creative with its revenue ideas rather just just - make the folks that don't generally vote DFL pay for it. Sorry, but that's crass and pathetic at the same time. I would be more in favor of a budget solution that was longer on structural changes (eliminating entire departments, changing what the State even tries to do, cutting back the size of State employment) rather than this mindless snip here and there. Moreover, why the heck should k-12 education be held special? Where is the structural reform in a system that pays teachers just for showing up and surviving another year..... NO creativity. Utteryly Wasted crisis. Fine, blast PAwlenty for not being more forthcoming with his own creativity, but the Legislature waited until a few weeks before the end of the session to get 'serious'.... they are a joke.
One more thing re WWJD comment: Jesus' message in the Gospels is one of individual salvation and individually looking after one's fellow man. It was about giving, not taking. Get it? It was about DFL-ers giving more to charity, not passing laws that take more money from unwilling payers. God loves a cheerful GIVER. I would (and do) happily give to charity several times more than I would pay in the additional income tax that the DFL wants to levy. Guess what I will cut back if I pay more taxes? Because really, the taxes are forced charity from my standpoint.