Diagnosis: Pain in the budgets, and pain in the streets

AFTERNOON EDITION

Under the heading of “We Kind of Already Knew That,” Mark Dayton popped up on Bloomberg TV telling viewers that the solution to the state’s budget solution “will be very painful.” Eric Roper blogs about it at “Hot Dish Politics,” saying, “Dayton has already downgraded his pledge to raise education funding every year, saying he will “do [his] utmost.” He also told an anti-poverty dinner last week that “it’s going to be very difficult to enact the [anti-poverty] initiatives that I proposed in my campaign.” Why? Republican leaders have so far indicated they will be taking a hard line against raising taxes — a key facet of Dayton’s budget plans during the campaign. During the Bloomberg interview, however, Dayton warned that a budget solution without tax increases would have serious consequences.” But wait a minute, Gov. Pawlenty said we have a surplus?

Uh-oh. Someone’s going to be riding the tumbrel to a public execution. Dave Orrick of the PiPress reports: “In perhaps the largest snow-related snafu — call it a snowfu — of the testing weekend storm, St. Paul plows skipped — completely — two downtown streets. Following calls this morning from the Pioneer Press, crews are being scrambled to plow Temperance Street in front of a condominium building and Exchange Street in front of the Dorothy Day homeless shelter. In both cases, the oversight — no plows have been down either street since the snow started — appears to have gone unnoticed despite numerous calls and e-mails from frustrated members of the public. ‘Personally, right now, I don’t know what happened,’ [said] public works spokeswoman Shannon Tyree. ‘I’ll have to check with the supervisor, and he’ll have to talk with the plow drivers. It’s certainly not intentional. Our intent is to clear every street to at least winter driving conditions.’ ”

The Wall Street Journal’s “Digits” blog/videoblog offers a good discussion of Best Buy’s challenging competitive environment. Yesterday’s 15 percent drop in stock price was followed by an earnings call with CEO Brian Dunn, who got off this lump of verbiage, as reported in Bloomberg/BusinessWeek: Question: What hurt TV results? Response: “Our forecast and the forecasts of the vendor community were looking for an improvement in the TV industry in the third quarter, supported by a more promotional environment and pent-up consumer demand for new technologies. While we did see sequential month-to-month improvement in our TV business, the quarterly results fell below our expectations. In fact, estimates show the TV market was down double digits in value terms in the third quarter. We think this was driven by a weaker overall demand environment for TV, along with slower adoption of new technologies.” I’m not certain, but that may be Aramaic.

Reuters runs a story saying: “Following Best Buy’s disappointing earnings, Reuters analyst John Kozey does not like Best Buy as an investment and says shares could fall further in the near term. ‘Best Buy is a stock to be traded, not invested in the long run,’ Kozey said.” Ouch.

Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME, representing government workers, is not exactly defenseless when it comes to rhetoric, and he has some for Gov. Pawlenty, following the governor’s shot at public workers in  his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece. Says Seide at the Workday Minnesota website:  “Let’s bust the myths behind Pawlenty’s propaganda. Myth: Compensation for public employees is the cause of the state’s deficit.  In fact, if Gov. Pawlenty fired all state employees, the cost savings would erase only 21 percent of the state’s $6.2 billion budget deficit. Myth: Public employees are overpaid.  In fact, AFSCME Council 5 is a union of 43,000 public and non-profit workers, who earn $38,000 a year on average. Most of us are struggling paycheck to paycheck with frozen wages, just like the average Minnesota worker who also earns $38,000. Myth: Public employees earn more than private-sector employees. In fact, public workers in Minnesota earn 4 percent less than their counterparts in the private sector, when matched by education and experience.  That’s because public workers have sacrificed wages for better benefits. Myth: Public pensions are extravagant. In fact, AFSCME retirees have modest pension benefits of about $13,000 a year. Combined with Social Security, it’s the difference between dignity and poverty. Ninety percent of retired public workers stay in Minnesota; their pensions fuel the local economy and keep seniors self-sufficient. Myth: Government is growing. In fact, our state government is shrinking. Yet middle-income taxpayers are frustrated that they’re paying more and getting less. That’s because they’re subsidizing tax breaks for the richest Minnesotans. The wealth of Minnesota millionaires has doubled under the Pawlenty administration, as their state and local tax rates have decreased by 4 percent.” Your shot, Governor.

That woman who went flying off the Lafayette Bridge during last week’s storm? Its happened before. John Brewer at the PiPress reports: “Joe LaBrosse and four friends were crossing the Lafayette Bridge on a snowy December night in 1983 when the driver lost control. The concrete barrier between the car and the edge of the bridge had been piled with snow from plows and was more of a ramp than a barricade, LaBrosse recalled Tuesday. The large sedan shot up the snow embankment and teetered over the edge. ‘It hesitated momentarily,’ said LaBrosse, 54, of West St. Paul. ‘We all looked at one another with scared looks on our faces, and then we tipped over and fell … to the parking lot below.’ His girlfriend was next to him in the front seat; she died. Another passenger was paralyzed on his right side. LaBrosse and two other women were treated at hospitals.” The woman in last weekend’s crash is still in critical condition.

My apologies for being a bit late to draw attention to the New York Times story by Robert Elder on the notorious execution of 38 Dakota Sioux in Mankato in 1862: “Now, an effort to keep the story alive is taking root on  campuses and even on Capitol Hill as the 150th anniversary of the execution, in 2012, approaches. Commemorative events will include symposiums, museum exhibits, monument re-dedications, book publications and an original symphony and choral production. ‘It’s time to talk about it and time for people to know about it,’ said Gwen Westerman, a professor of English at Minnesota State University at Mankato and a member of the Dakota who is planning to investigate Chaska’s case [a Sioux pardoned by Abraham Lincoln two days earlier] and the cultural context of the conflict with a class. She says she is hoping her students can ‘put together some more pieces of the puzzle.’ ” It’d be a good movie.

Andy Post at Minnesota Democrats Exposed likes what the Strib has been reporting about tax increases in Minneapolis. “Compared to similar budget decisions in years past, this year’s move by the City of Minneapolis to raise taxes and cut services received less media attention but more public outrage. Kudos to the Star Tribune for covering the issue today after the city council voted in the wee small hours of the morning last night to move forward with a budget proposed by Mayor RT Rybak that raises taxes to historic levels and cuts city services-including police.”

He then goes on to say: “Not unlike past tax increases, the city continues to blame the state’s cuts in LGA and uncertain financial stability for this latest move. They also plan on increasing property taxes around 6% year-on-year for at least the next five years. When will the excuses end and solutions begin? It is time for the City of Minneapolis to hear the wake up call and get their financial house in order. LGA is not an appropriate revenue stream for Minneapolis to be sourcing its public safety budget out of. Business revenue to tax in the city has decreased (also cited as a reason for raising homeowner taxes) which means the climate for entrepreneurs and investors is becoming less favorable. The process of annual budgeting cannot simply be a game of firing employees and raising the cost of living. Minneapolis must recognize businesses and citizens as essential partners for long-term success instead of ATM machines.” Perhaps tomorrow Mr. Post will offer solutions.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Tim Walker on 12/15/2010 - 03:56 pm.

    “Perhaps tomorrow Mr. Post will offer solutions.”

    Don’t hold your breath, Brian.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 12/15/2010 - 04:55 pm.

    And the meaning of Mr. Post’s comments is precisely tiddly squat. Same old Republican talking points taken from the tattered and barely-readable crib sheet from 20 years ago.

    Same old lazy lack of creativity and inability to think broadly and deeply enough to engage in problem solving. Same old whining that more of what we’ve been getting from THEM at the state level for the past eight years will solve the problem…

    any day now…

    really it will…

    just let the rich people get really, really, really rich, then they’ll save us all…

    no, really!…

    they will…

    they’re just not rich enough yet…

    they’re not…

    THEY’RE NOT!!!

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