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:
- Who are the private vendors that have provided House Republicans with financial consulting on the state’s budget?
- 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?
- 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?
- When and how often did these consultancies with private vendors occur?
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.”