Get specific! Whaddya gonna do?

At the Long Term Care forum at Three Links a question was “it seems likely that the greatest pressure in the 2005 legislative session will be for increased spending in five areas: transportation; k-12 education; corrections; increasing access to health care for children, low-income and the working poor; and older adult services. Since those five areas consume most of the state’s budget, it seems most likely that if you increase spending in one of those five areas, you will have to cut spending in another one of those areas or increase revenue through some other means such as a tobacco tax. Which of those areas would you cut and which ones would you increase? What additional sources of revenue would you consider?

Out in the audience, someone wasn’t satisfied and wanted clarification:

“There are only three choices available to us as we face the coming budget crisis. You can do more gimmicks and shifts, make continued cuts, or you can raise taxes. What are you going to do?” This fork in the road was pointed out one citizen at the candidate forum at Three Links Care center, and he wanted to know how both Ray Cox and I would deal with the issue. What would we choose?

Rep. Cox said some things needed to be cut because we can’t sustain them, but he didn’t say which of those things listed were the ones to cut. Schools? Nursing homes? Healthcare for children? But Ray seemed confident that by letting things stand as they are, and developing Racino to raise revenue, Minnesota would be just fine.

I don’t agree. I don’t support the Racino for two reasons: First, Racino is bad “pie in the sky” policy, sending the wrong message that we can get something for nothing — the wrong choice for Minnesota. Gambling is not a wise source of government revenue — to depend on gambling is grossly regressive and irresponsible, preying on those least able to pay. In addition, state run gambling is not allowed under the current agreements with tribal nations. The compacts, like any agreement, can be renegotiated if both parties are willing, and Pawlenty administration is trying various methods to extort the tribes to “come back to the table.” I believe that a deal is a deal, and that we negotiated the best deal we could at the time

It takes courage to face the reality of our situation. Governor Pawlenty is the first Governor in history to face a budget crisis of this magnitude and not face up to the fact that we need to raise taxes. Had he done so, we would not be facing the $1.5 billion in difficulties we face now, and that $1.5 billion is a “best case” estimate.. There is no surplus and there is nothing left to cut – we have cut too much and cannot weather damage of this magnitude.

On Wednesday, I was privileged to spend an evening with Vice President Mondale at a fundraiser for myself and Bruce Bjork (25A) and was reminded of the courage Walter Mondale showed when he stood up to the plate and let Americans know there needed to be a change.

Mondale said, “The truth is we need to raise taxes, he (Reagan) won’t tell you, and I just did.” I have struggled with this and tried to say it in a way that would help voters see that we cannot maintain the Minnesota we want without investing in it. Mondale said it again that night, and implored and inspired each of us to do what we can to turn this situation around.

At the forum, Ray seemed to be saying he’s going to fight for nursing homes and schools and roads, even agreed with my theme that we need to invest in community, but he has had a chance to advocate for them the last two years. Instead of advocating for those in need, he went right along with his fellow Republicans and approved the Health and Human Services cuts that cost 38,000 Minnesotans their health care benefits, cut payments and shifted costs for hospitals, cut child care assistance by $90 million, reduced funding for senior services by 15%, increased the nursing home surcharge that results in a $2000 annual increase for private pay patients, repealed expansion of the senior drug program… I could go on, but you get the point. There is a difference – I am a Democrat – Ray Cox is a Republican, and he votes with his party in St. Paul, votes with Speaker Sviggum 92.5% of the time.

As I said in my ad in Wednesday’s paper, this election is not about who’s a nice guy, who built your house, who helped your children through school – it’s about who best represents you, who best advocates for the community, who invests in community to preserve and enrich it.

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