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DNR says budget cuts mean ‘mothballing’ 10 state parks

MORNING EDITION

Just days after that points-for-chutzpah award-winning proposal to log black walnut trees in state parks to pay bills, the latest blow to Mother Nature comes in the form of flat-out budget cutting. Baird Helgeson’s Strib story says: “The reductions would hit nearly every corner of the Department of Natural Resources, the Pollution Control Agency … even the Minnesota Zoo. DNR officials said the cuts could force a ‘mothballing’ of up to 10 parks until state finances improve. Under the plan, the parks would remain open, but campgrounds and buildings likely would be closed and unstaffed. The bill ensures ‘we continue to preserve and protect the overall health and welfare of our natural resources,’ said Senate Environment and Natural Resources chairman Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria. ‘By making difficult choices and focusing on priorities today, we ensure a vibrant Minnesota outdoors tomorrow.’ ” I’m not sure, but that sounds an awful lot like a variation on the old Army adage about how to save a Vietnam village.

GOP Rep. Steve Drazkowski has been getting a lot of ink this session, and not just for that “log off the walnut trees” idea of his. O Tuesday, he had Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak on his case for accusing Minneapolis of wasteful spending (and therefore a resulting elimination of all LGA money). Tom Crann of MPR reports: “Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, made the comments during floor debate Monday on a proposal to eliminate local government aid to cities and counties. Drazkowski said Minneapolis is wasting state taxpayer money on a long list of programs, including funding for public art and the Target Center’s green roof.  ‘The LGA money is being spent for garden space, for bike to church Sundays program, a low-carbon cook-off, Hour Cab, neighborhood energy conservation, energy sustainable parks, $88,392 for climate change grants,’ Drazkowski, whose district includes parts of Goodhue, Wabasha and Winona counties, said.”

Rybak told Crann: “He has a point that is based on wildly inaccurate figures and taken out of context. Here’s the real point that people should be focused on. Bottom line is the city of Minneapolis generates far more for the state than we get back, about $40 million more than we got back in LGA now. We generated a total of $2.68 billion in sales tax and commercial and industrial tax from 2003 to 2008. Minneapolis is an economic engine for the state, and our ability to succeed depends on an ongoing partnership. The city of Minneapolis is spending 7 percent less than we spent 10 years ago, adjusted for inflation. The state cannot say that. We have 10 percent fewer employees than we did 10 years ago. And by the way, during this period of time in which the state has cut almost $300 million from the city of Minneapolis, we have paid off $130 million in debt, which has restored our Triple-A bond rating. The state of Minnesota cannot say that.”

Lefty bloggers are heating up over a largely ignored comment by House Speaker Kurt Zellers last Friday. “Big E” at the Minnesota Progressive Project writes: “Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) sent a letter to House Majority Leader Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) about this:
During your March 25th press briefing you made a surprising revelation about the fiscal projections House and Senate leaders are using to create the ominbus budget bills.  Specifically, you acknowledged that fiscal chairs are ‘depending on figures from private business and from other states’ to create the budget rather than using the non-partisan fiscal notes from Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB).

” … Here are the questions Winkler asked:

  1. Who are the private vendors that have provided House Republicans with financial consulting on the state’s budget?
  2. Do any of the private vendors with which you have consulted have a financial stake in the budget area in which they provided you information?
  3. Were any of the private vendors paid or compensated in any way whatsoever for their assistance in providing numbers for public revenue or expenditure bills?
  4. When and how often did these consultancies with private vendors occur?
  5. Were these meetings public and did they recognize Minnesota’s open meetings laws?”

Your response, Mr. Zellers?

In other budget-slashing plans, you gotta love the way they threw in the bit about not using public funds for human cloning. The Strib’s Bob Von Sternberg writes: “Despite pleas from officials with the University of Minnesota and the state’s college system, the two chambers passed deep cuts in spending that majority Republicans say are needed to whittle the state’s massive budget deficit. The votes were 37-27 in the Senate and 69-60 in the House, with Republicans in favor and DFLers opposed. The legislation also includes a ban on the use of state or federal funds to finance human cloning. That amendment was approved by both houses after strenuous debate.”

The carnival in Madison introduced yet another sideshow Tuesday. The hearing before the judge who issued the restraining order stopping Gov. Scott Walker’s so-called “budget repair bill” told the state’s GOP she means it when she says it ain’t law yet. The AP story goes on to say: “[A] Dane County judge again ordered the state to put implementation of the law on hold while she considers a broader challenge to its legality. She chastised state officials for ignoring her earlier order to halt the law’s publication. ‘Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of (the law) was enjoined,’ Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi said during a hearing. ‘That is what I now want to make crystal clear.’ Sumi is set to hear additional arguments Friday on the larger question of whether state violated open meetings law during debate on the measure. She also is considering claims by some officials that the law technically took effect last weekend after a state agency unexpectedly published it online.”

Another AP story, this one bylined by Scott Bauer, says: “Republicans broke from their party allegiance to Gov. Scott Walker in the first briefing on his budget plan Tuesday, joining Democrats in questioning the governor’s decisions to cut money for recycling and reshape the University of Wisconsin System. … Walker’s proposal doing away with state grants for local recycling programs, and eliminating the requirement that such programs exist, drew questions from Republican committee member Rep. John Nygren of Marinette. ‘A lot of us are having a hard time understanding the governor’s mindset in repealing that mandate,’ said Nygren, one of several lawmakers who have said they will defend the program. Huebsch said that while Walker calls for removing the mandate, many Wisconsin communities would continue to pay for recycling themselves or private companies would fill the void.”

Freshman Congressman Chip Cravaack’s concern over the Chinese fluoridating our water — excuse me, stealing our military secrets via their purchase of light aircraft manufacturer Cirrus — strikes analysts as just a wee bit overblown. Bob Kelliher of MPR reports: “ ‘I do not want this type of technology being used for military evolution against our troops,’ Cravaack said. Cravaack cites carbon-composite materials technology used to make some Cirrus airplane parts, turbofan engines for a new Cirrus jet in the works, and concerns over a small rocket which fires the signature Cirrus all-airplane parachute. Each, Cravaack said, has a potential military application. … China already has access to carbon-composite technology through a joint venture with the Boeing Company. The government determined the small rockets are not munitions and can be exported, and the jet engine in question is widely available to the Chinese in other commercial aircraft. That rings true to Derek Scissors, who tracks China’s overseas investments with the conservative Heritage Foundation. Scissors said he sees little in Cirrus of military value, but the company’s technology looks useful for civilian aircraft.”

If you’re following the death by a thousand cuts being inflicted on the state’s education system, you owe it to yourself to follow Rob Levine on The Cucking Stool blog. For example: “The lies and misinformation that brought us the Teach For America Enabling Act earlier this session were bad enough when proposed by Republicans, but when they were embraced by Democrats and our ‘liberal’ governor it signaled the beginning of the end of education as we know it Minnesota. Now with the legislature set to pass bills that remove teacher tenure and tie teacher salaries and retention to their students’ test scores the end is nigh. Good, experienced teachers will be leaving the profession in droves. Many are set to retire anyways — this will just hasten the departure of our most seasoned professionals, to be replaced by poorly trained and ill-equipped Teach For America recruits. Education in Minnesota is being converted into a free-market paradise where instructors are no longer professionally trained careerists, but where they instead are turned into just another commodity, pushing the latest new fad, until they hustle onto real careers where they actually have a chance at making a living and being respected.” 

Sure they have to use plows and salt spreaders on the basepaths, but the Twins’ home opener is still scheduled for April 8. Did you see the PiPress story about the new chow at Target Field? “The additions include:
• The Giant Juicy Turkey Sandwich from the Minnesota State Fair and Minneapolis food truck Minneapolis Turkey to Go;
• The Walk A Taco from St. Paul’s El Burrito Mercado;
• The Minneapple Pie, an apple pie from the Cottage Grill in Rogers, Minn.;
• Two more Kramarczuk’s bratwurst offerings, these via the Food Network, a smoked bratwurst with horseradish cream and a wild rice bratwurst with pickled red cabbage and beer mustard;
• A kosher hot dog cart featuring Hebrew National hot dogs.”

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/30/2011 - 08:16 am.

    Jobs, jobs, jobs?

    Where?

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/30/2011 - 08:40 am.

    I’m sure this must be because I’m a newbie to the state, and don’t yet understand all the nuances, but, given the emotional and policy train wreck in the legislature this year – from the proposal to sell off hardwood trees in state parks to pretending Minneapolis is a drain on the state’s finances – which even a newbie can see has its basis in the multi-billion-dollar deficit left behind by the previous administration, why does anyone of either party have a kind word for former Governor Pawlenty, and how can there even be a possibility that he might be taken seriously – OK, more seriously than Mrs. Bachmann – as a potential President of the United States? The mind boggles.

    And Mr. Zellers? It’s not just Representative Winkler who noticed the source(s) of Republican budget figures. Some of the rest of us would like his questions answered, as well, and with specificity.

    I don’t follow The Cucking Stool (there are only so many hours in the day, and I have other things to do), but to the degree that Rob Levine is correct about the Republican miseducation bills currently in the pipeline, I have to agree. Minnesota’s education system will be gutted, with consequences for decades to come. Too bad voters won’t remember, 20 years down the road, that it was right-wing ideologues who did the gutting.

    Statewide high-stakes testing is a bad idea to begin with. Taking that bad idea further, and basing teacher salaries on the test scores of students who have no investment or stake in the outcome is not just punitive, it’s plain stupid. If John and Jane and Nasolo and Nicolá had a stake in the outcome – let’s say, they could not be admitted to any state college or university if their performance didn’t reach ‘x’ level on the test – I venture that we’d see some very interesting trends in test scores, no matter what their teachers did, or didn’t, do in the classroom.

    As Sue Shuff wrote in a letter-to-the-editor in the ‘Strib two weeks ago:

    “… Teachers don’t cause low achievement any more than dentists cause cavities or doctors cause obesity. The head of the National Secondary School Principals compared reading scores with the rest of the world’s and discovered that when schools with high poverty rates were factored out, American schoolchildren came in second.

    An in-depth research project at Johns Hopkins University concluded that children in classrooms across the country learn about the same amount in any given year. The difference in their test scores is related to what happens in the rest of their lives.

    When we address that, we’ll make a legitimate start at closing the achievement gap.”

    Addressing “…what happens in the rest of their lives…” would require Republican and Democratic legislators, state and national, to think at least a little bit outside of their ideological boxes, however, so I’ll be surprised if it happens to any significant degree.

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/30/2011 - 09:31 am.

    As our psychologically dysfunctional Republican legislative friends (and their supporters) prove, day in and day out,…

    when you’re trying to get rid of (by punishing or cutting) everything in the state that doesn’t match the ideology your dysfunctions require you maintain in order to feel comfortable living in the world,…

    you simply can’t let actual facts, figures, and statistics get in the way of restructuring the state so that those personality aspects YOU still have access to are celebrated and admired, while the personality aspects you lack (empathy, compassion, the ability to trust, the ability to do basic math…

    you remember…

    2+2=4 (not 10)

    4-6= -2 (not 2)

    are deplored as defective and even dangerous.

    Clearly they knew that the Minnesota Management and Budget folks were going to provide them with the kind of accurate information that would make them uncomfortable, angry, even enraged (since it raised questions about their ideologically-based policy and budget decisions), so Zellers, et al, went looking for sources that would give them the kinds of demonstrably false information which would, despite it’s complete inaccuracy, tell them only what their ideology would allow them to feel comfortable hearing.

    (In the hearts of their hearts, they KNOW it’s B.S., but it makes them feel so good!)

    Just because you find a meteorologist who’s willing to tell you that it’s warm and sunny outside, doesn’t mean you’re not going to freeze to death in the raging blizzard that’s actually happening when you go out your door to travel where you’re absolutely determined to go, “come hell or high water.”

    The real problem, here, is that Mr. Zellers and his ideological and chamber of commerce cronies are not going to be the ones who freeze to death. It will be the rest of us together with all the things that made Minnesota worth living in and worth locating high tech businesses with well-paying jobs in, despite our cold winters, that will find themselves frozen and buried under 15 feet of ideological “this, is good and right and true and WILL work because WE really, really, really believe it will) B.S. as we enter a new economic ice age.

  4. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/30/2011 - 09:40 am.

    Those questions about the sources of Republican budget info will never, never be answered specifically or honestly.

    How come no mention here about the education bills or did I miss it. I thought I heard something on the news last night concerning the pay for performance plans. I thought I heard that the best performing districts would get rewarded with more money. That would mean the “haves” would have more and the “have nots” would have less. Under this plan I wonder what teacher other than the most desperate for work would chose to go into an inner city school where test scores are so bad for many reasons beyond the quality of the teaching.

    Here’s a good Republican idea, not just teachers but also parents should be rewarded for well performing students. Parents of, say, 3.5GPA or above students get a tax rebate, whose level would be income-based. If a student underperforms for 5 consecutive years, the child is removed from the home and the parents lose their parenting rights. The child’s welfare is then covered by private charitable giving.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/30/2011 - 09:49 am.

    If there’s any lawyers around here please help me out here. Seems to me the Executive in Wisconsin is or will be in contempt of court when the ignored the injunction. Now the judge has reiterated the injunction and threatened sanctions for further contempt. What kind of sanctions are possible? I know you can get tossed in jail for contempt, but who would you arrest? The AG, the governor?

    Are my wife and I the only ones who think this is actually a huge deal? Doesn’t this contempt make the Wisconsin executive an criminal regime?

    If nothing else, it seems to me this contempt has guaranteed this law is toast. The judiciary tends to stick together on certain things, and the legitimacy of the courts is one of them. This thing is probably headed to the state supreme court, and no matter who appointed them, they won’t take kindly to being ignored. I think they’ll be encouraged to adopt a narrower interpretation of the law in question which will kill it.

    Walker will continue to ignore the court, obviously the strategy here is to render court rulings irrelevant because the law will be implemented. That may be a fantasy strategy to begin with, but what I want to know is what can this judge do when Walker continues to ignore the court?

  6. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 03/30/2011 - 11:36 am.

    Republicans legislators have put us on the road to ruin and I hope Gov. Dayton can stop them before it becomes the highway to Hell.

  7. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/30/2011 - 11:38 am.

    Walker and his cronies are authoritarian fascists at heart. Just as was the case with our own former Gov. Tim Pawlenty who set himself up to single-handedly “unallot” a large part of the state’s duly-passed budget bill a couple of years ago, (until the Minnesota courts slapped him down) Walker seems to think he was elected KING of Wisconsin rather than merely governor.

    These people only believe in Democracy when everyone involved is doing their bidding.

    What was it that “Emperor” Palpatine did in Star Wars? Oh yeah! He simply dissolved the senate when it no longer suited his purposes and took completely control himself.

    No doubt both Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Walker would sell their souls to have that kind of power!

  8. Submitted by Rich Crose on 03/30/2011 - 11:51 am.

    The Republicans are worried that the rich will leave the state if they raise taxes. They should be worried that the working class will leave the state if they don’t and the quality of life diminishes.

    Hello! People don’t live in Minnesota because they love the weather.

  9. Submitted by Douglas Hoffbauer on 03/30/2011 - 12:44 pm.

    As stated on MPR this am, the cut to DNR was 2%. Mothballing 10 stateparks, keeping them open, but closiong the picnic and camping area. Are not the picnic and camping the reason people come to state parks? Perhaps opening some of the closed campsites, or raising the fees on camp sites would generate more revenue, and thus keep the parks open. The proposal to close the revenue source (campgrounds) seems almost a bit of a hissy fit by the DNR. They need to help the situation bu offering viable alternatives.

  10. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 03/30/2011 - 04:32 pm.

    Douglas (#9), this is actually what was on MPR this morning:

    ” The DNR says the House bill would reduce its general fund budget by 19 percent, the Senate bill by 15 percent.

    But Republicans focused on the overall budget of the DNR, including revenue from fees and licenses.

    Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, says the DNR will experience a real cut of only 2 percent. And he says the DNR is using scare tactics when it talks about closing state parks.”

    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/03/29/environment-funding-bill/

    So while the overall DNR budget is only cut by two percent, much of the other funding sources are deciated to certain expenditures. This link is to an older DNR budget (08-09) that has a detailed breakdown of revenue and expenditures.

    In any event, the threat to close state parts is not a “hissy fit” but the actual consequence of the Republican budget. Because the funding for state parks comes from the general fund, it is a 15 or 19 percent cut (depending on the House of Senate budget) and not a two percent cut. Rep. McNamara, who was quoted in the MPR story you heard, doesn’t know what he is talking about.

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 03/31/2011 - 01:17 am.

    Paul (#5) A couple of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Justices were elected with the help of Big Money from ultra-conservative sources, as was its governor.

    We can only hope that they do not outnumber the justices who still put the rule of law above corporate interests.

  12. Submitted by Rod Loper on 04/01/2011 - 07:21 am.

    Do not expect an answer from the repubs about where
    their “Enron fiscal notes” come from. Minnesota voters in the majority voted last election for
    governor candidates who said that revenue was needed to balance the budget as well as cuts. I
    wish the democratic leaders would do more messaging on this point.

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