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A symbolic start? GOP’s first deficit cut — Senate per diems

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: State budget back and forth; county recount costs; Ford hiring, but not here; more shooting repercussions; and new weather “cold alerts.”
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You can’t eat symbolism, but at least the GOP has identified a cut it is prepared to make to stanch some of the red ink. The AP reports that, if approved by the full Senate, “Minnesota senators will get $10 less a day in their daily expense payments, part of belt-tightening promoted by the new Republican majority. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee approved the 10 percent reduction on Monday. The move cuts per diem payments to $86 from their previous level of $96 a day. The payments had been raised in 2007 from $66 a day.” Austerity. Its a bitch.

As promised, state GOP legislators gathered today to propose serious tax cuts for corporations. The Strib’s Baird Helgeson blogs at “Hot Dish Politics”: ” ‘This bill provides a warm welcome to those looking to start a business or expand their current operations,’ state Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, who authored the bill and chairs the Senate’s Jobs and Economic Growth Committee. ‘The solution to persistent unemployment and budget deficits is private sector job growth.’ Democrats said tax cuts haven’t proven to be a successful tool to stimulate the economy and questioned Republicans’ desire to add to the $6.2 billion deficit. ‘It seems like the Republicans are in some denial about the state’s financial situation,’ said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. ‘When are [we] going to get serious about that the state has a serious, structural financial problem. I don’t get it’.”

MPR’s Tim Pugmire covered the event and quotes Bakk: “ ‘Cutting corporate taxes is a poor tool to spur economic growth,’ Bakk said. ‘Not only is it extremely costly to our state, it provides absolutely no guarantee it will create jobs or help Minnesota’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. All this bill does is shift a greater share of the state’s tax burden onto working families.’ ” And he has Michel saying: “ ‘We don’t just compete with Wisconsin and Iowa any more,’ Michel said. ‘We have to compete with Singapore and Malaysia. So, we need to set a basic foundation for Minnesota job creators, and we need to welcome them back to the state.’ “

Last week, DFL Rep. Tina Leibling of the Rochester area wrote a commentary for the Post-Bulletin. In short, she said: “ ‘No new taxes’ at the state level has meant higher property taxes, new or increased fees for many services, huge tuition increases for college students and payment delays to schools. But it has protected the wealthiest Minnesotans, even as their share of the national wealth reaches levels not seen in 100 years.”

Over the weekend, Mark Thein of Oronoco, a Post-Bulletin editorial board adviser responded: “We have a choice – keep growing state government’s role in our lives at the expense of our personal freedoms/opportunities/wealth, or start applying the brakes. Government is NOT inherently evil, but it is incessantly hungry. As the ‘truth’ has shown in the facts presented, we as Minnesotans — of every income bracket — pay plenty of taxes already. At this point, we need to keep more of our income to feed ourselves instead of feeding state government’s ever-increasing waistline. Although Rep. Liebling is right that we cannot continue to ‘balance’ the State’s budget through accounting tricks and deferrals of payments, she and our other representatives will now have to go back to our 10-year-old definitions of ‘needs.’ We’re not going to tax ourselves into prosperity.”   

The effort by some counties to get reimbursement for recount expenses has reared its head again. Another AP story says: “Grant County auditor Chad Van Santen says they’ve sent a number of letters to Republican candidate Tom Emmer and the state Republican Party seeking reimbursement for making copies of 4,000 documents and for the hours worked by election officials. Van Santen says the Emmer campaign told the county to forward the bill to the state party. Officials in Kandiyohi County and Stevens County tell KSAX-TV they also have not been reimbursed. The Republican Party of Minnesota did not immediately return a call seeking comment.” Maybe the recount wasn’t the moneymaker GOP chair Tony Sutton hoped it would be.

Dee Ann Durbin of the AP also has the story of Ford announcing it will hire 7,000 workers over the next couple of years: “The company plans to hire 4,000 manufacturing workers this year. Almost half those workers will be at the Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky that will make the new Ford Escape starting late this year. It expects to add at least 2,500 new manufacturing jobs in 2012. The company said it is beginning a recruiting effort this week in Detroit and eight other cities, including San Jose, Calif., and Raleigh and Durham, N.C. (St. Paul, site of a Ford plant slated to close this year, is not among them.)” And: “Under a 2007 contract, new hires will make around $14, or half the wages of veteran workers, which will mean significant savings for the company.”

Without a whiff of irony, FoxNews’ Ruth Raw blogs about Congresswoman Betty McCollum reacting to Saturday’s shootings in Tucson, saying: “In the last year and half, McCollum says, she’s seen more of the type of violent language and behavior that might have led to the incident in Arizona, especially at town hall meetings. ‘I’ve noticed a great deal more use of violent language, more people being bullying and trying to intimidate others trying to state their opinion.’ McCollum didn’t want to elaborate on why she felt there had been more of it in the last year and a half, as opposed to five or ten years ago, but said, ‘I think it’s a shared responsibility of the media and elected officials … I think lawmakers should be respectful in the way we address one another and the way we talk about the work we do and set a tone of civility.’ “

Adam Serwer, writing in The Washington Post’s “Plum Line” blog, references Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s famous comment “that she wanted ‘people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax,’ because ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing.’ ” Writing about the roots of the Tucson shooting, he adds: “Only conservatives can truly persuade other conservatives that the situation has gotten out of hand. Yet good counsels have been conspicuously absent. Republican politicians and leaders were perfectly willing to fan the flames of their base’s rage when they believed it would get voters to the polls. Those who weren’t actively participating stood silent as Limbaugh, Beck and others casually invoked the specter of violent revolution.”

Another AP story says the National Weather Service will begin issuing “extreme cold” alerts: “An extreme cold warning will be issued if the temperature is forecast to be 30 degrees below zero or colder with winds of less than 5 mph. ‘Typically these conditions occur a few times each winter,’ Martin said. ‘It recognizes that conditions are dangerously cold without the wind. For the next two weeks, we’re looking at colder-than-normal conditions for the area,’ he said. ‘We have true arctic air rolling right in from above the Arctic Circle.’ ” You’d think it was January or something.