This has been a busy month and a half for me. Bringing the school year to a close, adding up the credits, making the final reports, packing up everything (as we were forced to move out of the space we designed for our ‘community based school’) and planning for summer school. I did manage though to meet together with my DFL friends at the Belle Plaine Library as I have for the last two and a half years. One Saturday we heard Mike Hatch talk about the needs of Health care reform, another we visited about the needs of long term care facilities, another time did an analysis of the 04 election and then put on our wet weather gear to do a highway cleanup together. The Belle Plaine friends are a great bunch of people and meeting them was among the things I treasure most in my efforts to seek public office.
On Saturday, the Minnesota Senate made another attempt to get 9,000 laid off state workers back on the job and solve the impasse that has state government shut down for the first time in 148 years.
Just as we had done on June 30, we passed yet another “lights on” bill that would keep government running until July 11, which we feel would be adequate time to get a deal done. The Minnesota House adjourned on Saturday with no passage of a “lights on” bill, meaning that 9,000 state employees will be out of work on Tuesday.
In addition, the Senate DFL made another offer to the Governor in hopes of settling the budget impasse.
The offer we put on the table, which is the seventh budget we’ve offered in hopes of finding something that the Governor will find acceptable, provides important funds for education, health care and local government aid. Most importantly, it would get those 9,000 state employees back on the job and end this stalemate, which has become a black mark in the history of our state.
As we adjourned to observe the Independence Day holiday, it has been my hope that the Governor who clearly favors logjams over leadership will find the courage to end this mess.
State Senator, Fridley
You might also be interested in a great article just appeared in the latest City Pages check it out:
The Shutdown Showdown
For once, Minnesota Dems take a hard line with Pawlenty
by Britt Robson
Vol 26. Issue 1283. PUBLISHED 7/6/2005
For those who believe in the principles of collective apathy and cynicism, the first state government shutdown in Minnesota history is a golden opportunity to declare a pox on the houses of all legislators for “failing to get the job done.” The “job,” by the terms of this criticism, is settling the affairs of the state without cutting services or raising taxes, and getting it done without unseemly bickering, so we can gnaw on a turkey leg and enjoy Dennis De Young playing the music of Styx at Taste of Minnesota in peace.
Unfortunately, a little ruckus over the setting of the state budget is in order, and probably overdue. Over the past six years, no other state in the nation has experienced a more dramatic shift in its traditional political character and philosophy than has Minnesota. Try as we might to avoid them, the ramifications of that sea change inevitably have to be acknowledged.
First, a little background. Six years ago, the Minnesota Legislature passed a biennial budget that contained $2.7 billion worth of tax relief–more than twice as large, per capita, as any other state tax cut in the country. A year later, in a non-budget session, legislators returned hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus money through further cuts in income taxes and car license fees. For the 2002-’03 biennial budget, they executed a “big fix” by drastically lowering property taxes (especially on high-priced homes, businesses, and agricultural land), rebated $700 million in sales taxes back to citizens, and had the state replace local units of government as the source of $1 billion worth of education funding.
Having disgorged billions of dollars in excess revenue back to Minnesotans while simultaneously reducing the state’s ability to bring in money and increasing the state’s financial obligations, legislators left the state treasury uniquely vulnerable when the dot-com bubble burst shortly after the turn of the century. In 2002, then-Governor Ventura proposed a significant package of tax increases and spending cuts to begin to address the problem. But a pair of legislative leaders running for governor that year, Sen. Roger Moe and Rep. Tim Pawlenty, instead struck a deal to essentially postpone reckoning on the budget, shifting costs and instituting insidious gimmicks such as counting the dollars inflation adds to the state’s coffers but ignoring those same adjustments when calibrating the cost of government services.
Consequently, two years ago, the newly elected Governor Pawlenty faced a whopping $4.2 billion deficit in the pending biennial budget, a situation made more intractable by his campaign pledge not to raise taxes. Even after raiding every funding source he could find, he had to hack more than $2 billion worth of services to balance the budget. A showdown seemed to loom with Senate Democrats, who had passed $1.2 billion worth of tax increases in an attempt to recoup a mere fraction of the various tax cuts that had been enacted in the previous four years. But in May 2003, then-Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger not only stopped pushing for a tax increase but abruptly reversed course and offered to supply Pawlenty with three DFL votes in the Senate to enact the governor’s agenda. Hottinger said he caved in after deciding that Pawlenty would sooner shut down the government than agree to a tax increase.
To read on click here.