12th-hour deadlock in St. Paul. ‘Unallot’ away, Governor.
No news is not good news if you’re following this spring’s face-off between DFLers and tax-averse Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The Strib’s Pat Lopez, with assistance (in an update) from Mike Kaszuba, Mark Brunswick and Pat Doyle, chronicles last night’s 12th-hour action, or lack thereof. Basically, the DFL threw the plan Pawlenty vetoed several days ago back in his face. He, of course, is threatening to deal with the state’s huge budget shortfall all by his lonesome and make the necessary cuts via the process of “unallotment.” The Strib team writes, “Pawlenty has told DFLers that he would not call a special session to eliminate the state’s deficit and would not agree to any tax increases. Instead, he has said he would act on his own, if necessary, using a combination of one-time accounting shifts and cuts known as ‘unallotments’ to reduce spending on health care, colleges and universities, and city and county governments.” If that’s the way you want to roll, Guv …
Brunswick contributes an analysis on Pawlenty’s predicament that is well worth reading. He interviews DFL Rep. Kim Norton from Rochester who was conflicted on whether to run as a DFLer or Republican. Writes Brunswick, “She sees many moderate Republican colleagues struggling with their votes at home and their loyalty to Pawlenty. ‘They don’t want to hurt their local hospitals, but by standing by their governor they are. The governor has a different agenda. I don’t even know if he’s planning on being here to deal with the impact of the decisions he’s making.’ “
WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler’s piece gives a sense of the DFL’s bill redux getting rammed toward a vote over Republican objections. Kessler emphasizes that Pawlenty’s plan depends on borrowing to pay off the deficit.
In his piece, the PiPress’s Bill Salisbury quotes Majority Leader Margaret Anderson Kelliher saying, “We are the pay-as-you-go Legislature. I’m sorry to say the governor has been more interested in borrow and spend.” Salisbury delineates the actual costs of the Pawlenty “unallotment” plan as follows: “Reducing local government aid and related property tax relief by $450 million. Cutting health and human services spending by $250 million. Decreasing payments to state colleges and universities by $190 million. Trimming $190 million from tax breaks, including the renters credit, political contribution refund and payments to counties in lieu of taxes. Pawlenty also suggested delaying $1.8 million in payments to schools until the 2012-13 biennium.” Ouch!
Burl Gilyard reports for Finance and Commerce on the so-called “Trader Joe’s” bill the Legislature will NOT be dealing with, via special session, unallotment or anything else. The nub is a plan to squeeze a new Trader Joe’s mini/super market in near the Wedge co-op in south Minneapolis. The move needs special dispensation for liquor sales, and Gilyard reports that the developer was told bluntly such a decision wasn’t something the Legislature would get into.
The Strib’s Bob Von Sternberg turns in a short piece off a study of cities and the on-field success of their sports franchises by the Toronto Star. It seems we are — woo hoo! — 18th in terms of the championship chops of the Vikings, Twins, Wild and … Timberwolves. No.1? Indianapolis. To which I say, Indianapolis? I assume this study was completed before the Twins choked away four games to the Yankees in New York.
Hey, Cheech … Gov. Pawlenty is also less than enthusiastic about the medical marijuana bill that passed out of both chambers of the Legislature last night. The PiPress’s Jason Hoppin notes that after 10 years of debate its not like you’re going to be able to buy a couple “legal” doobies to treat your psoriasis. The rules and regulations are pretty tight. Basically you’ll have to be at death’s door. “The bill would establish a licensing system for patients who have a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana,” writes Hoppin. “They would then be issued a photo identification, allowing them to purchase marijuana at state-licensed marijuana dispensaries.” But then Pawlenty may veto this one, too.
The Strib’s outdoor writer, Dennis Anderson, has been campaigning for the so-called Legacy Amendment, pretty much since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Or so it seems. But he’s happy today because, he reports, the always unwieldy conservation/arts funding bill, buoyed by a modest tax increase approved in last fall’s general election, escaped from a House-Senate conference committee in a condition that Anderson finds acceptable to conservation-oriented hunters and fisher-folks. “It’s something we can live with, and a lot better than the House bill originally was,” one legislator tells Anderson.
The PiPress’s Dennis Lien covers the Legacy Amendment’s escape and draws attention to the $2 million that’ll be drawn out of the outdoors habitat fund — a hunters favorite — to fight emerald ash borers.