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Tough political slog predicted for state ‘wisemen’s council’

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Budget brouhaha garners diverse comments; more “essential services” pinpointed; Pawlenty’s new ad; a list of top lists; and more.
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The biggest obstacle to the “wisemen’s council” initiated by Arne Carlson and Walter Mondale may be that it is only “bi”-partisan. They may need a third leg — a Tea Party representative — to speak to the roots of this matter. Reid J. Epstein of Politico reports: “Republican legislative leaders aren’t likely to be on board and Tim Pawlenty is already in the former vice president’s crosshairs. In fact, Mondale couldn’t resist taking a shot at the former Minnesota governor and GOP presidential hopeful when POLITICO asked him after the press conference how much blame Pawlenty deserves for the current budget crisis. ‘He left basically the mess that we see — the huge deficits,’ Mondale said. ‘He shifted these issues into the future so that he wouldn’t be around.’ … [O]n the surface, the whole proposition seems dubious. Having an advisor to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton intimately involved — Jim Schowalter, the Minnesota budget commissioner has been tapped as a key committee staffer — could raise credibility questions for the GOP. Republicans already rejected an earlier Dayton idea to have a mediator help resolve the impasse. Carlson acknowledged that Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch expressed hesitancy about the idea during a conversation he had with her.”

Bob Adelmann of The New American writes: “All blame for Minnesota’s budget mess can’t be laid at the feet of Governor Dayton. After two terms under Pawlenty, during which he was able to balance the budget mostly through accounting shenanigans and federal stimulus dollars, he also signed into law a $1 trillion public works bill which allowed work on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line to continue and the construction of Target Field, a major league baseball stadium in Minneapolis. (Ironically, Target Field is named for Target Corporation, founded — as “Dayton Dry Goods” — by current Governor Mark Dayton’s great grandfather in 1902.) When Pawlenty stepped down, his accounting shenanigans, including borrowing from K-12 education funds and from the state’s Health Care Access Fund to close his budget deficits, left the state in financial disrepair. Minnesotans suffered property tax increases of $2.5 billion, more than in the previous 16 years combined, and Moody’s lowered the state’s bond rating.” … He does add a balancing view from … GOP Chairman Tony Sutton: “[Mark Dayton] is a dilettante lecturing businesspeople in this state on how to live their lives and run their businesses. As a small business owner, I know what it is like to sweat out making a payroll. Sometimes you even hold your own check to ensure that people get paid because they depend on it. He has never had to experience these things.”

An NPR story says: “So far, the rival parties have displayed more brinksmanship than compromise, but in reality the two sides aren’t that far apart,” said Steven Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. ‘They could reach a compromise sometime this month,’ he told NPR, adding that while hard-line conservatives and liberals complicate the negotiations, eventually a deal will be reached — even if it is just temporary. Schier points to the budget deal reached in 2005 between then-governor and now Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Funding was approved for the big things, but fights over money for smaller state agencies and public schools [were] simply kicked down the road. Andrew Karch, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota, said compromise might prove a bitter pill for the two sides, which have pledged to their constituencies to stand firm.”

Mike Kaszuba of The Strib says Dayton wants to expand the list of “essential services”: “In a filing late Monday, the fourth day of the shutdown, the governor said that crucial state services should also include special education aid, chemical dependency and mental health services, HIV case management and counseling and services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes. In addition, the governor said that child care assistance and services for the homeless, disabled and other vulnerable citizens should be included. The filing came as Kathleen Blatz, a former state Supreme Court justice, began her second day Tuesday as a special master appointed to review individual requests by agencies to have their funding continue.”

On the NewsBusters website, “Exposing & Combating Bias in the Liberal Media,” Tom Blummer declares: “Weekend coverage emanating from Minnesota via Reuters and the Associated Press is doing its level best to run interference for Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, who has chosen to shut down the government rather than sign a budget which does not include tax increases. One unbylined AP report is a softball Q&A which inadvertently gives away that Dayton’s intransigence is, from his point of view, far more about party politics than the welfare of Minnesotans. In a longer AP profile by Patrick Condon with help from Martiga Lohn, Dayton abuses the Bible, in this case Luke 12:48 (as “progressives usually do), and reveals the all too typical liberal guilt found in born-wealthy liberals. In that second report, Condon provides another giveaway by drawing a parallel to President Obama and DC Democrats who are heading down a similar path on the national level. It’s a pretty obvious reminder to Dayton that he can’t afford to have a Democratic governor give in on the issue and set a problematic precedent for Washington.” If only they could get their message out!

On the flipside, “Gaius Publius,” at AMERICAblog News, says: “[T]he Crisis in the States has been in the works for some time. It’s not the by-product; it’s the plan. Don’t believe that? James Pethokoukis at Reuters does (my emphasis):

‘Congressional Republicans appear to be quietly but methodically executing a plan that would a) avoid a federal bailout of spendthrift states and b) cripple public employee unions by pushing cash-strapped states such as California and Illinois to declare bankruptcy. This may be the biggest political battle in Washington, my Capitol Hill sources tell me, of 2011. That’s why the most intriguing aspect of President Barack Obama’s tax deal with Republicans is what the compromise fails to include — a provision to continue the Build America Bonds program. BABs now account for more than 20 percent of new debt sold by states and local governments thanks to a federal rebate equal to 35 percent of interest costs on the bonds. The subsidy program ends on Dec. 31.’ And my Reuters colleagues report that a GOP congressional aide said Republicans ‘have a very firm line on BABS — we are not going to allow them to be included.’

“In short, the lack of a BAB program would make it harder for states to borrow to cover a $140 billion budgetary shortfall next year, as estimated by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. The long-term numbers are even scarier. Estimates of states’ unfunded liabilities to pay for retiree benefits range from $750 billion to more than $3 trillion.”

The Wall Street Journal and others are taking note of T-Paw’s new Iowa ad, in which he declares he “won” in Minnesota. Says Patrick O’Connor: “The ad also allows the Pawlenty campaign to trumpet episodes that show Republican voters the former governor has a proven track record of getting his way, another not-so-veiled shot at Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann who has captured much of the excitement among conservative activists in Iowa despite a relatively thin legislative resume both in Congress and the statehouse. ‘Tim Pawlenty would not accept Democrats’ massive tax-and-spending demands,’ an announcer says in the ad. ‘Result? Pawlenty won.’ The ad goes up as Minnesota endures day five of a government shutdown that resulted from the failure to bridge a $5 billion budget shortfall leftover from Mr. Pawlenty’s tenure as governor.”

At The Atlantic, Chris Good is saying: “Shutdown isn’t typically the model for good governance, but Pawlenty’s ad may play well among Republican primary voters who want spending cuts without tax increases. As a federal shutdown loomed in April, Republicans seemed far more willing to take things to the brink. A Pew survey showed a majority of Republicans wanting politicians to stand by their principles even if it meant a government shutdown. Democrats were 29 percent less inclined to feel that way: High-profile games of budgetary chicken seem to be the zeitgeist. This year alone we’ve seen Wisconsin Republicans squeeze a budget through the legislature amid massive labor protests, a late-hour agreement on 2011 funding to prevent a federal shutdown, and now broken-down talks over how to avoid a federal debt default. Through it all, the fiscal-conservative wing of the GOP base has demanded that Republican politicians stand by their deficit-reducing principles. Here, Pawlenty tells viewers they can have it both ways: an effective governor, unafraid to stand for budget cuts and against tax hikes, who wins in the end.” And who doesn‘t want, above anything else, a “winning” governor?

Despite our delusionally-driven politics, we are still No. 1 … in a lot of stuff. Jessica Bakeman of the Strib has a list of lists. She says: “If your psyche needs lifting, take our quiz. See if you can spot which rankings were snagged by the city, region or state in recent years.
Which accolades describe us? Choose A or B (answers at bottom).
No. 1                            
A Minnesota as the most hipster state
B Minneapolis as the city with most sports championships
No. 2
A The Twin Cities as having the friendliest people
B Minneapolis as a top city for interracial dating
No. 3
A Minneapolis as the worst city for smoking problems
B Minneapolis as the gayest city.”