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Groups pressure GOP lawmakers to settle budget in ‘low key’ meetings

Small groups of clergy, business representatives and local community leaders are meeting "very quietly" with some legislators.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Small groups of clergy, business representatives and local community leaders are meeting “very quietly” with some legislators.

News of a stealth grassroots effort to urge Republican legislators to compromise reached my ears Monday.

Even as the faces of the governor and key members of the Legislature seem to convey a message of gridlock and impasse, the executive director of a local nonprofit describes a “low-key” under-the-radar approach to end the budget stalemate with no shaming or blaming (his words) for those willing to step up and compromise. In return, groups promise to publicly praise legislators who support compromise.

Small groups of clergy, business representatives and local community leaders in about a dozen towns around the state, says Brian Rusche, are meeting “very quietly” with some GOP legislators. They’re saying, says the executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, “You really have to be open to more compromise for the good of everybody.”

Four or five in a group, they’re telegraphing the message: “This is really hurting our community, our town, we need you to compromise to be open to new suggestions,” Rusche says.

About 50 people statewide make up the ad hoc group. The effort is supportive of Dayton’s budget position. 

I had called Rusche to get his take on the $556 million gap between Republican and Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposals in expenditures on health and human services, as reported last week by Dayton’s camp.

“These cuts are horrible, they’re painful. It just drives me wild. Their rhetoric always focuses on the accounting exercise, making sure we stay within their $34 billion and not the human toll” such a budget would bring, Rusche says. What it means to people, he continued, “It’s just inhumane, it’s awful.”  

Rusche won’t name which legislators are agreeing to meet and listen. “We’re trying to take a low-key, low-stakes approach,” he says.

Meanwhile, other efforts to give John and Jane Q Public voice are more obvious. The JRLC has posted an action alert calling for ordinary citizens to pull out markers and paint and hand-letter yard signs with such messages as: “New Revenue + Careful Cuts = Balanced Budget” or “Tax me.”

Invest in Minnesota, a coalition of faith, labor and nonprofits, has also led efforts to engage the public to speak up.

InCommons, “a community-based, statewide initiative to connect people face-to-face and online,” and the Bush Foundation are calling Minnesotans to meet next week in Grand Rapids, the Twin Cities and Rochester to hash out new approaches to address the state’s budget problems, to find “common ground” and end the gridlock. Signup is required.

“Citizen voices like yours need to be part of whatever decision our state leaders reach — in 2011 and in years to come — if we’re going to break Minnesota’s ongoing deficit cycle,” an online flyer proclaims. Diverse ideologies and perspective required.

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Comments (21)

  1. Submitted by Paul Crawford on 07/12/2011 - 10:47 am.

    So, Dayton would have to pick off at least 5 Republican votes in the Senate? Good luck.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 07/12/2011 - 10:52 am.

    I pray that God will bless these efforts to re-invigorate the Republican Party at the local level by reminding some of our Republican legislators who seem to have pledged themselves to the current equivalent of the pagan god Ba-al (under threat of death from our own modern-day Queen Jezebel in the guise of Grover Norquist),…

    that their true allegiance is to their own state and the well-being of the people who elected them.

    Lacking that, I strongly suspect that next spring’s Republican precinct caucuses will resemble the contest between the two altars on the mountaintop engineered by God with the assistance of the Prophet Elijah,…

    with the final result that the more moderate old-school Republicans will rise up and throw the Norquistian usurpers out of their local precinct caucuses in a figurative blood bath of Biblical proportions.

    Perhaps ALL Republicans in Minnesota need to ask themselves “who’s side are you on?” Are you on the side of these outsiders who have taken over your party and much of the Media in our state (starting with the “Good neighbor to the Northwest may years ago),…

    or the side of good, solid, moderately progressive “Boone and Erickson” Minnesota ideas and ideals that once made us “the state that works.”

  3. Submitted by dan buechler on 07/12/2011 - 11:09 am.

    Good start, yet I remain disappointed in the media coverage of this shutdown. In the most specific context and that context only I think this is about the long term survivability of MN Care (under CARLSON). Please please interview people or heads at the south county alliance for health or those in the NW or even the arrowhead region. That’s whats it all about. Once again you tube cats tug of war and see the little kitten win.

  4. Submitted by Mike Sanford on 07/12/2011 - 11:16 am.

    Why is it that the ocmments I have seen overwhemingly blame the Republicans for the budget impasse and shutdown?? Was it not Dayton who said he wouldn’t force a tax hike if it meant the state shutting down in a debate (on tv mind you) last… October… I believe it was? If you think this is just a Republican problem, then your seeing only half the problem. This is both parties fault, and it further proves to many Minnesotans that policiticians are truly out of touch with the rank-and-file element in Minnesota.

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/12/2011 - 11:39 am.

    The discussion has not been about what is funded, it is the level of funding–leaving “minor” consideration of effects out of the discussion.

    It has been an entirely dishonest discussion because the effects of cost rises and demand rise has never been effectively quantified and explained.

    The horse is already out of the barn. Both Dayton’s and the GOP’s budget have significant cuts embedded in them.

    And perhaps the most infuriating thing of all, the discussion that MUST be had, has not been had—health care costs are eating more and more of the budget, in direct provision, subsidies and as benefits to employees.

    Until the health care costs are brought under control, the budget will be out of control.

    That is the plain fact. Bloviating about fiscal responsibility means nothing until the biggest cost driver in Minnesota is addressed.

  6. Submitted by Alan Ingram on 07/12/2011 - 12:46 pm.

    And only single payer really can bring health care to all while bending the cost curve so that cost driver can be brought under control.

    I know…how can that conversation happen, when we are so polarized that we are paralized? I don’t know…but we have to have that conversation or we will by doomed to keep rolling that stone up the hill – over and over and over – until we are consumed by the task.

  7. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 07/12/2011 - 01:32 pm.

    Part of the problem of “health care costs” is the reality that the baby boomers are beginning to retire and, as is the case with all of us who choose not to commit suicide, will require much larger outlays for the medical conditions which multiply as we age.

    This, coupled with the fact that so many corporations are, despite record profits, paying less and less of their employees’ health care costs (except, of course, for management) if not kicking them into the unaffordable individual policy market while, at the same time, many people are being forced to trade well-paying jobs with good benefits for much lower paying jobs with NO benefits,…

    All means that the costs of even the most basic government healthcare services ARE GOING to continue to rise and rise a great deal at least for the next thirty years, until the majority of the boomers have died off.

    This is the reality that our “conservatives” refer to as “unsustainable increases in health care costs.” What they mean is that, given the chance, they will refuse to pay to preserve the lives of those who are aging and retiring, as well as the lives of those for whom there are no longer any available well-paying jobs with decent benefits.

    Shorter version: “building our corporate profits and our own individual wealth are far more important than the well being of those who are not us.” If you get sick and you’re not wealthy and young, you die. It’s not OUR problem.

    Of course there’s no way to deal with this problem in ways that are more just, more fair, and more respectful of human life unless we spend a lot of money and/or reduce the incomes of medical professionals, nationwide, to those enjoyed in Europe (or both).

    Anyone who tries to tell you that these problems can be dealt with without spending a lot of public money, which, of necessity in this difficult economy can only come from taxing those who actually HAVE money, is only selling one thing: highly increased levels of DISEASE and DEATH among the general population.

    God was not amused with Cain when he tried to claim that he was not “his brother’s keeper,” but the reality is, if WE do not take on the role of being EACH OTHER’S KEEPERS, a lot of us, including those “conservatives” who are NOT wealthy, are going to go without medical care and die far younger than we might need to.

    Each of you who demand the right do so, in trying to keep your “wealth” for yourself, resenting the need to help others, and refusing to do so, may well be ensuring that “the bell (of early death)…tolls for thee.”

  8. Submitted by Duke Powell on 07/12/2011 - 01:59 pm.

    The clergy want more revenue??? OK then, let’s begin to tax their income. That’s a tax increase I’d support…

  9. Submitted by Claire Lundgren on 07/12/2011 - 02:21 pm.

    I totally agree with Greg Kapphahn (#2) in that we need to get rid of non-elected leaders of the parties and our elected representatives need to be reminded that they were elected to represent our state and the interests of those that elected them. Well put!

  10. Submitted by Lance Groth on 07/12/2011 - 02:27 pm.

    Re #4 – because Dayton’s plan has always included a mix of painful cuts and revenue increases (but only on those who can afford them), whereas the other side will only talk even deeper cuts. Because Dayton has repeatedly offered new proposals, even at one point removing any tax increases from his proposal, while the other side has budged not one inch. Because, in a nutshell, Dayton has, since his election, repeatedly offered his hand to the repubs, only to have it firmly slapped away each and every time.

    How can you negotiate when one side removes 50% of possible solutions to the problem from the table? How can you negotiate when one side says only, “my way or the highway”? Name one compromise offered by the repubs that isn’t a case of simply reshuffling the same deck.

    One side is missing 50% of the problem, but it isn’t Dayton or the readers of this site. As far as rank & file Minnesotans, a majority are with Dayton.

  11. Submitted by Alan Ingram on 07/12/2011 - 02:46 pm.

    Greg, at 8), that’s a very good description of what has been termed “Social Darwinism”. It’s quite ironic to hear creationists touting the “prosperity gospel”, which really amounts to a manifest for the survival of the fittest, where “personal responsibility” is code for “everyone for themselves”.

    I don’t think most conservatives would admit to that philosophy – even in today’s MN Republican party. What’s troubling is that their behavior and attitude toward those who are less fortunate than themselves, less fit than themselves, amounts to exactly that worldview.

    That’s not the Minnesota that I grew up in and its not the Minnesota I want for my descendants.

  12. Submitted by dan buechler on 07/12/2011 - 03:09 pm.

    I agree with Stinson and Gillepsie that health care is the cost driver. Can we also discuss wages indexed to the inflation rate?

  13. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 07/12/2011 - 03:26 pm.

    Dan and Neal are absolutely correct. The media aren’t telling some of the 145,000 individual stories of people who will be priced out of the health care market (except for ER visits when they can’t stand the pain anymore) if the Rs succeed in switching MNCare to a voucher program.

    And, while there has been some criticism of the HMOs who are holding in “reserve” — and earning interest on — $1.5 BILLION excess taxpayer dollars that they didn’t need to use over the past years. This money — OUR money — could go a long way toward eliminating the current shortfall.

    As could the immediate reversal of the unwise and damaging Ventura/Pawlenty tax cuts for the wealthy.

    “You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few or you can have democracy, but you can’t have both.” Louis Brandeis

    Let’s choose democracy!

  14. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 07/12/2011 - 03:43 pm.

    Whomever may have told some of us that clergy incomes are NOT taxed, has been sorely misinformed. Clergy pay income tax, and, if they own their own homes, property taxes, just like everyone else.

    Many clergy, those whose denominations do not assign them to particular congregations or parishes even pay at the much higher, “self employed” rate (higher because they must pay both their own and the “employer’s share” of FICA and Medicare taxes).

    So, yes, when clergy advocate for higher taxes, they are advocating to have THEIR OWN taxes increased.

  15. Submitted by Russ Ramirez on 07/12/2011 - 05:10 pm.

    After years of demonizing Republicans, some of you are only repeating what you have been told or heard. It’s childish (and paranoid) to think that a set of your fellow Minnesotans is trying to harm others just because of the political party they are affiliated with. Nationwide, as well as in our state, Republican candidates won in what was a mandate to curb the over-the-top spending that was occurring. We were hearing about states going bankrupt, like California, spending beyond what was both reasonable and responsible. In MN, I think we get our money’s worth even though we are pretty heavily taxed (sum of all taxes). As it stands, a $3B budget increase was apparently not enough, so the Governor passed on that. He’s singing from the party hymnal himself with all this “tax the rich” mantra.

    Health care cost increases, the baby boomers like myself, are some of the root causes of how we got here. However, let’s look at another side of the coin. 30 years ago when I graduated from college and headed into corporate America, I received excellent benefits at the time. I was single and didn’t even use the Health Care coverage because I didn’t need it like married folks with kids did. Now I have had to pay for about 1/3 of this coverage out of pocket while others in Unions pay very little out of pocket in comparison. In cases where this offset traces right back to state tax revenue, I am also paying for part of someone else’s coverage. It’s good when that coverage is from UCare for example and is going to help Sr citizens who are struggling. It’s not so fine when it’s going to Union workers. I do NOT blame them, but blame the Unions themselves for tipping the system in their favor. This is one simple example of where cuts can be made for subsidizing the benefits of active Union employees under 55.

    Something is wrong when we strive to demonize Republican representatives in this state (that we elected) when the other side is bloviating about the harming some poor, helpless folks, and the “rich” not paying their fair share. Political demagoguery at it’s finest.

  16. Submitted by William Pappas on 07/12/2011 - 06:07 pm.

    Are you kidding me Mike Sanford? Dayton started out with three billion in tax revenue from rasing income tax on those with incomes over 250,000 and now he is looking at regressive taxes to come up with less than a billion dollars in new revenue. Noooooo, he hasn’t done much to comprimise. Republicans still won’t agree to any new revenue. Come on Mike, your heroes are pledged to Norquist and have absolutely no interest in how the state of Minnesota or Minnesota businesses are effected by these massive cuts to jobs programs, education, health care, research, transportation funding and the list goes on. Your guys just don’t care. They care about taxes on millionaires, end of discussion, no comoprimise. Start dealing with reality and stop living in the fantasy of republican politics. Tax cuts don’t stimulate the economy. Every time they are used the economy stagnates. The last round coupled with financial deregulation nearly took us into a recession were it not for the Bush TARP money. No one can say Dayton has not comprimised and the majority knows it. Your next election will be painful.

  17. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 07/12/2011 - 08:50 pm.

    Seems to me these liberal groups should be pressuring the liberal governor, not the conservatives. If they want to settle the budget debate, they should be pressuring the person who might agree with them.

  18. Submitted by David Greene on 07/13/2011 - 12:34 am.

    @Russ

    Please stop repeating the lie. The Republicans did not offer any new revenue. Their proposal cuts the budget by over $500 million.

    This is why people don’t trust Republicans. Again and again they have proven themselves not to be trustworthy. Actions speak louder than words. Their proposals will hurt the poor, the elderly, working people, pretty much everyone except the rich.

    That this is so is no one’s fault but their own and people are right to call them on it.

    “Now I have had to pay for about 1/3 of this coverage out of pocket while others in Unions pay very little out of pocket in comparison…It’s not so fine when it’s going to Union workers. I do NOT blame them, but blame the Unions themselves for tipping the system in their favor.”

    Sounds like you need to start a union in your workplace.

    I honestly don’t get this. Why in God’s name are you making excuses for insurance companies that reap enormous profits at the expense of the sick? Why do you apologize for an industry entirely centered around denying people health care? Why do you think working men and women are to blame?

    It’s immoral.

  19. Submitted by Steve Calvit on 07/13/2011 - 07:19 am.

    Turning Minnesota Care into a voucher system would cause many of my clients to BLEED TO DEATH. Let me say it again–BLEED TO DEATH!!!

    These clients have severe bleeding disorders and must take a type of medicine which replenishes their blood with a protein that prevents hemorrhaging. This medicine, called FACTOR, must be infused into the patient up to three times a week. It’s extremely expensive, costing up to $60,000 per month. Tell me, what private insurance company would knowingly take an enrollee who would cost the company three quarters of a million dollars a year? That’s why programs like Minnesota Care and Medical Assistance are so vital.

    And, I’m just talking about one type of disorder. There are many other disorders which are very, very costly to treat. What would happen to these people? We see them in clinic and they are scared to death!

    If the Republicans have their way, PEOPLE WILL SUFFER AND DIE!!!

  20. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/13/2011 - 08:05 am.

    Russ (#15) says:

    …Republican candidates won in what was a mandate to curb the over-the-top spending that was occurring…

    The problem is that the Republicans won their seats by a relatively small majority–that’s not really a mandate, is it? Almost half of their districts disagree with them. And how do you explain that a significant majority of voters went for Horner or Dayton, both of whom clearly and emphatically campaigned on raising sales tax or income tax?

    As for “over-the-top spending”, have you noticed the cost of most things rising, especially health care? Have you noticed that there are more unemployed people? Have you noticed that the population has increased in Minnesota and the US? Have you ever stopped and analyzed what is “over-the-top” and what is increased costs and increased population?

    I doubt it, and that is what so dishonest about the discussion.

  21. Submitted by dan buechler on 07/13/2011 - 06:34 pm.

    #19 And that’s the nub of it right there. Do you or your clients know of the Gunderson protocols used in western Wisconsin? Or that the current dialysis program was originally set up for relatively healthy kidney patients under the age of 65. O r on the flip side the excess profiteering the drug companies probably make on such costs??

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