Every good editor tells his/her staff to “always go right to the source.” Kevin Diaz of the Strib followed that directive and dialed up the man arguably most responsible for Minnesota (and the country’s) gridlocked politics: “Grover Norquist, president of the influential Americans for Tax Reform, lays the blame squarely on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. ‘The guy who vetoed a budget which funded almost all of state government and didn’t give him his hate and envy tax increase, and didn’t give him as much money as he wanted to spend — more than the world has ever seen Minnesota spend in the history of Western Civilization — that is the fanatic,’ Norquist told [the Strib]. Norquist, the anti-tax guru and conservative icon, also has little use for the bipartisan ‘third-way’ group formed by former Gov. Arne Carlson and former Vice President Walter Mondale to forge a compromise. ‘Your governor, just like Obama, wants to set up a phony, bipartisan commission so that liberal Republicans can announce they want tax increases and isn’t that the terribly reasonable, moderate thing to do,’ he continued. ‘Something somebody might want to mention to Dayton is it didn’t work for Obama because nobody took seriously the little commission … As for compromise: ‘Democrats want to spend more; Republicans want to spend less,’ Norquist said. ‘What would a compromise look like? If you spend more, the Democrats just won … Spending more and raising taxes a little is not a compromise, it’s called losing.’ ” You know, it’s eerie. It’s almost like Speaker Zellers and Majority Leader Koch took their words right out of Grover’s mouth.
$23 million a week here, $23 million a week there and pretty soon we’re talking serious money. That figure comes from state economist Tom Stinson. A Bloomberg story by Mark Niquette says: “Minnesota’s economy may lose about $23 million a week in spending power from public and private workers idled by the shutdown of its government, according to Tom Stinson, the state’s economist. The 23,000 state workers laid off in the wake of a partisan budget dispute may get only about half their average $1,000 weekly salary in unemployment benefits, Stinson said in a telephone interview from Minneapolis. That, plus the additional loss from employees of nonprofits and private construction workers, may mean a total $18 million taken from the economy, he said. Stinson also estimated a secondary loss of as much as $5 million in weekly spending power by private workers, especially in the leisure industry, as furloughed employees cut back on spending if the closure drags on for a month or longer, he said. Although the loss is a fraction of the $2.4 billion in weekly state wages, the impact will become more noticeable the longer the closure lasts, he said.”
You want more “money losing” news? Here’s one from Politico’s Reid J. Epstein: “Among the losses the state is incurring: $1.25 million daily in unsold lottery tickets, $1 million a week lost from unpaid state parks fees, $52 million a month in tax revenue not being collected because state auditors — like the rest of state government deemed nonessential — are out of work and up to $50,000 a week from closed tolled highway express lanes.” No Powerball? What am I going to live on next week?
The special master in charge of deciding what agencies are essential and should continue to be funded during The Shutdown has made several decisions. Mike Kaszuba of The Strib reports: “Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin agreed Thursday with the pleas regarding Blind Inc., the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, the state school board association and the state Department of Human Services licensing division. Special Master Kathleen Blatz, a former state Supreme Court judge, began hearing requests for continued funding July 1 and has been making recommendations to Gearin. Gearin however did deny one request — a petition by Arc Minnesota for continued funding of its housing access services.Gearin granted the petition from Blind Inc., which asked for continued funding for training for the blind. … The judge also granted the petition of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, which asked that state funding for emergency general assistance, emergency supplemental aid and payments for short-term shelter and utility needs continue.”
You have to wonder what they’d talk about if they ever met, but T-Paw says he’s a big Lady Gaga fan. The website “Glitterazi” (Where Pop Meets Power) caught up with Our Guy Wednesday in Ames. Here’s their video. Amy Gardner at The Washington Post condenses it this way: “Clearly, the Republican, who is crisscrossing Iowa this week, was itching for someone to ask him the question. So we did — and if you think Pawlenty can be thoughtful about the debt ceiling, you ain’t seen nothing. This man knows his Gaga. ‘Well you know, in terms of the beat, I like ‘Bad Romance,’ Pawlenty said. ‘I gotta say, even though she’s a little unusual, ‘Born this Way’ has some appeal. She’s actually very talented. Now if you go to the end of the HBO special, the Lady Gaga HBO special, and you watch her sing a cappella ‘Born This Way,’ she can sing. She can definitely sing. She’s talented.’ Somewhat apologetically, Pawlenty also noted that if he limited his artistic taste only to conservatives, he ‘wouldn’t have a lot of choices.’ ‘You gotta be willing to tolerate different politics,’ he said.” Obviously T-Paw hasn’t downloaded the love song duets of Lee Greenwood and Larry the Cable Guy.
Speaking of pop idols, Ross Raihala of the PiPress was, shall we say, unimpressed with Britney Spears at the Xcel last night. “[T]he 29-year-old sex kitten spent 90 minutes posing her way across an oversized stage in the downtown St. Paul hockey arena, but she did little in the way of singing (not live, anyway), dancing (she couldn’t even muster enthusiasm for a stripper pole) or even thinking (her phalanx of hot steppers led her around and kept her from tumbling into the first row of fans). The fact that there is plenty of high-tech trickery involved in a Spears show is hardly news, although her performance Wednesday night felt coldly robotic and uninvolved, even by the lowered standards one employs in her case. Truly, at times, it seemed Spears’ primary talent consisted of simultaneously arching her back and whipping her mane of blond locks.”
Back on (the lack of) government … Claire Kirch writing at Publisher’s Weekly says: “If Minnesota’s state government shutdown, going into its second week, lasts much longer, there will be serious consequences for the Minnesota Historical Society Press, housed at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. Even though MHS Press employees are not officially employed by the state and the press receives less than 20% of its $1 million operating budget from state funds, its parent institution, the Minnesota Historical Society, receives half of its funding from the state; thus, like MHS, MHS Press was ordered to cease daily operations indefinitely as of July 1. MHS’ operations and other “core, non-essential” government services will remain shut down until a budget for the fiscal year 2012 is agreed upon by Democratic governor Mark Dayton and Republican state legislators. Sixteen MHS Press staffers, interns, and volunteers are affected by the press’s shutdown, including eight full-time employees, who are not allowed to enter their offices, and cannot edit, design, print, or promote any books or the press’s regional journal until the state government resumes operations. They also can’t confer with authors on either current or future projects.”
The mug shots are the frosting, if you will, on a lot of stories like this. Joy Powell of the Strib writes: “A Rochester man arrested on Sunday on charges of driving under the influence of synthetic drugs may be the first Minnesota driver prosecuted under a new law that made such substances illegal. Michael A. Andrist, 46, was arrested near Rosemount after he’d been spotted driving his truck 70 miles per hour down the shoulder of Hwy. 52, going in and out of the ditch. He was caught after a brief chase, and though he passed an alcohol breath test, he allegedly admitted to police that he had injected ‘bath salts.’ Such substances, similar in chemical structure and pharmacological effects to illegal drugs such as marijuana and LSD, have triggered a series of federal and state laws around the country and were blamed in the death of a 19-year-old at a party in Blaine in March, where 10 other people were sickened.”
Over at The National Review Online, Katrina Trinko decides one fair and balanced source is good enough to decide if T-Paw’s terms as governor have anything to do with our budget debacle. She writes: “Most of the criticism of Pawlenty targets his decision to rely on two one-time fixes to balance the 2009–2011 biennium budget. Pawlenty accepted $2.3 billion in stimulus money and delayed paying $1.9 billion to state schools to help close a $4.8 billion budget gap in 2009. Peter Nelson, a policy fellow at the conservative Minnesota think tank Center of the American Experiment, defends Pawlenty’s decision to use the school funds. ‘Historically, that has been used in times of budget crisises [sic],’ he says. ‘It’s always been just another budget tool. Democrats have used it. Republicans have used it.’ ‘It’s really almost used as a budget reserve account, and it’s allowed them to not have as large of a budget reserve account. So I wouldn’t say that shift is part of our current problem today,’ Nelson adds, noting that this legislature can choose to not pay back the schools entirely. … Nelson also points out that Pawlenty’s budget actions ensured that tax hikes were avoided. ‘To the extent you could argue that he’s responsible for [the current budget deficit],’ Nelson says, ‘he held the line on taxes.’ ” In other words, he “won.”