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U of M’s Jacobs says state ‘on the cusp of ungovernability’

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: National media following budget developments; Neighborhood House steps up; Zoo will have Monkees but no monkeys; deadliest day of year on roads; and more.
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The idea that we here in Minnesota may be a precursor for the catastrophe awaiting the national government may explain the interest being taken in our shutdown situation. In the New York Times, Monica Davey writes: “ ‘It’s a very sad day for Minnesota,’ said Lawrence R. Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota, which is not expected to close. ‘It’s a state that had a well-earned reputation for being well governed where, at the end of the day, politics were done in a fair and efficient manner. And it’s now on the cusp of ungovernability. There’s a new ethic here that compromise is weakness.’ Still, some sort of deal seemed possible. Some observers have suggested that Republican leaders might agree to some sort of increased revenue — though not the nearly $2 billion Mr. Dayton has sought and not from a permanent income tax increase. But even a different source and smaller amount of new revenue might have trouble clearing the full Legislature; some among the new crop of Republican lawmakers had promised while campaigning last year to cut spending in the state and to hold the line on any new revenues.”

At The Huffington Post, Matt Sledge reports, “Dayton is proposing progressive income tax increases to fix the state budget, which faces a huge gap over the next two years, while the GOP is demanding further spending cuts. Both sides said they were attempting to compromise. But time is running out, and even if an agreement is reached Thursday, it may not come soon enough to avoid a partial shutdown. If the shutdown occurs, ‘It’s the largest single layoff that’s ever occurred in the state of Minnesota,’ said Jim Monroe, head of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE). Monroe estimates that more than 8,000 of his union’s members would be temporarily out of a job, and the effects on the state as a whole would be ‘almost unimaginable.’ The budget battle fight has taken on the ideological cast of a clash between an unapologetic progressive, Dayton, and Tea Party-favored state legislators. The state’s House and Senate are both dominated by Republican majorities.”

Locally, Frederick Melo and Sarah Horner of the PiPress report: “With the likelihood of a shutdown Friday growing, small-business owners, construction contractors, nonprofit agencies and some of the Twin Cities’ most vulnerable residents are among the many bracing for the consequences. ‘There’s going to be a lot of workers laid off, probably in the thousands of workers that are working on state highway and building projects,’ said Dave Semerad, CEO for the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota, a St. Paul-based contractors association. ‘Other private projects will be affected also, because there will not be permits and inspections. Not every project will require a state inspection right away, but usually at some point in the construction, they will. And depending on how long this lasts, the project may or may not be affected.’ With the help of an advance from the United Way, the Neighborhood House community center in St. Paul will continue to offer federally funded English classes to adults, resettlement services for refugees and rental assistance. The state, which administers federal funding for those programs, would not do so during a shutdown. ‘We can’t sustain this for longer than a two-week period,’ said Armando Camacho, president of Neighborhood House. ‘We have the largest single-site food shelf in Ramsey County. … The shutdown has the greatest impact on our most vulnerable citizens across Minnesota.’ ”

The Strib’s government ream is saying: “Despite the secret meetings, which have stretched seven straight days, there was scant sign of a deal. Legislators coming to the Capitol were greeting by hundreds of union protestors, urging the two sides to break the deadlock. Gathering on Capitol steps, some held signs ‘I am a Proud Public Worker’ and ‘Government Shutdown — Harming Countless Minnesotans Is Not OK.’ Some held babies and others held umbrellas to protect them from the burning summer sun. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement by midnight, Minnesota will slip into the most wide-reaching government shutdown in state history.” Hey, it’s what “we” voted for.

Up in Duluth, loggers have sued the DNR to keep cutting during the Shutdown. John Myers of the News Tribune writes: “Three logger members of the Minnesota Timber Producers industry group have filed suit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to keep access open to state forests during the looming shutdown of state government. Keith Harsbargen, Kit Harsbargen and Dale Erickson, all of Birchdale, claim the lack of access to state land could cripple their logging operations. The suit was filed in Koochiching County District Court with a hearing set for 2 p.m. today. The loggers are seeking a temporary restraining order to keep access to state land open during any shutdown. DNR forestry officials said they didn’t want timber cutting to continue while they were off the job. But the loggers say the contracts require them to follow best management practices no matter who is watching.” I believe that is similar to the model followed by AIG, Lehman Brothers and Countrywide a few years ago.

You will not able to see monkeys at the Minnesota Zoo, but The Monkees are still a “Go.” Chris Riemenschneider of the Strib writes: “Of all the upset constituents that state lawmakers might have to fear if this government shutdown happens, AARP-voting Davy Jones groupies could be some of the scariest. Fortunately, it looks as if this weekend’s pair of Monkees shows and other upcoming concerts at the Minnesota Zoo’s popular amphitheater will go on as planned, even if the zoo itself will not be open for business. Details are as murky as the swamp behind the Music in the Zoo stage, but a zoo representative said before last night’s concert that the staff there has been told the shows will go on ‘no matter what.’ A new posting on the zoo’s website today also confirms that the music series ‘will proceed as planned.’ If the zoo’s daytime operations are closed by the shutdown, gates for the concerts will then open up at 6 p.m.”

Purely by coincidence, today, June 30 is the day when, according to records, more fatal wrecks occur … on Minnesota highways … than any other day of the year. This year’s Legislature may more closely resemble a train wreck, but the State Patrol is taking no chances. Anthony Lonetree of the Strib writes: “The Minnesota State Patrol will have every trooper on the road Thursday as part of a special enforcement effort known as Maroon Day. Since 2000, June 30 has been the deadliest day on state roads, with 35 deaths reported in 30 fatal crashes, the patrol said. For this year’s Maroon Day campaign, the patrol plans to assign nearly 600 troopers, from the chief to its newest employee, to patrol duties, spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske said.” Here’s a suggestion: Cordon off the Capitol before anyone else gets hurt.

Lest we forget the greatest accomplishment of the 2011 Minnesota Legislature … the bill allowing all of us to vote on (further) restricting gay marriage … Nate Silver, at the New York Times, runs some numbers on gay marriage votes across the country, and here. He says: “The most basic conclusion is simply that a lot of states should be considered “swing states” on the question of same-sex marriage right now. But let’s get into a few more specifics. Minnesota. The Minnesota measure, which would ban same-sex marriage but not domestic partnerships, should be considered something of a tossup. Under the Accelerated Model, it would fail with about 49 percent of the vote, while under the Linear Model it would pass with 54 percent — both forecasts well within the models’ respective margins of error. One additional factor, however, is that Minnesota rules require a majority of all voters to cast a ballot in favor of a constitutional amendment in order for it to pass. So someone who turns out to vote next November and punches her ballot only for the presidential election is essentially a ‘no’ vote. Historically, about 5 percent of Minnesota voters undervote constitutional amendment proposals despite casting ballots for other races, so what this means is that the ban on same-sex marriage will de facto need something like 52 percent of the vote in order to pass. For this reason, I’d conclude that the Minnesota measure is a slight underdog.”

Finally, I received a note from Chairman Tony Sutton of the state GOP. The chairman was not pleased with an item in the June 27 Glean reporting that he had issued a press release responding to a local anarchist group, CRAP (Coalition for Restoring Anarchist Principles), embracing the GOP’s position on the budget crisis. “The release you quote from the anarchist group is a gag release … I never issued a statement …,” said the chairman. I’ve asked the source of the story for comment and will report back.