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

AFTERNOON EDITION

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.”

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/05/2011 - 04:15 pm.

    Tony Sutton reveals the 80-year-old grudge that right-wing Republicans still carry against Franklin Roosevelt and his “betrayal” of the upper class. If Dayton is a “trust-fund kid,” it only means that he’s in the position that Republicans routinely argue – and loudly – that they want to be in. That is, they want to be wealthy enough that taxes don’t matter.

    The whole point of the intellectually-bankrupt “free-market” economic position is to get government (and taxes) out of the way so us hard-working capitalists can put ourselves in a position where we no longer have to be hard-working, and can just be capitalists with a capital “C.” That we largely got there on the backs of a host of people working low-paying jobs with no benefits to speak of is, at least in some minds, immaterial.

    So, because Dayton, like any good Republican, inherited his wealth, he’s being criticized by Mr. Sutton for… inheriting his wealth. Obviously, Dayton has betrayed his class, just as FDR did when he became president during an economic catastrophe. Tony needs to start asking some of his party and campaign contributors where they got their money. Instead of guilt – a wholly appropriate feeling in that circumstance – too many wealthy right-wingers delude themselves into thinking that they somehow deserve their fortunes, or even more bizarre, that they somehow, single-handedly, earned it. The concept of winning the lottery of life, or of “good fortune” in general, seems to have escaped them.

    Meanwhile, former Governor Pawlenty, “winner” that he wants to be, is not responsible for our current economic predicament in pretty much the same way that a 5-year-old, his mouth circled with crumbs, is not responsible for emptying the cookie jar in the kitchen. Just because you say you didn’t do it, loudly and frequently, doesn’t make it so.

  2. Submitted by Lauren Maker on 07/05/2011 - 04:26 pm.

    Well, and another problem with “wisemen’s council” is that it does seem to be a wise MEN’S council–perhaps with the exception of Kris J. And no one from the social services sector seems to be involved either. It would seem both problems bend the scope of what the solutions could/should be.

  3. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/05/2011 - 04:45 pm.

    Interestingly, the quiz at the bottom highlights Minnesota as a socially progressive state. But, note that we are NOT the friendliest state. Nor are we the richest state (but we do rank 10th). We are NOT the highest taxed state (interestingly, Alaska takes that honor), but one of the highest (6th). Still, Minnesota manages to remain one of the best states to live in (Forbes) and our kids are all above average (Keillor). It seems to suggest that embracing our social progressivism has not hurt our financial situation individually or socially.

    One thing I find interesting is that Pawlenty inherited a $4.3 billion dollar deficit and left us with a $5 billion dollar (or more) deficit. It seems to me that the budget hawk failed. If you consider that property taxes went up (while home values went down) $2.5 billion in that same amount of time, it seems that the deficit would have been closer to $8 billion had property owners not picked up the slack. I’m sure that if you factor in increases in tuition at state universities and neglect of our states’ infrastructure, that deficit, by all rights should have been higher. So, instead of a $2.9 billion tax hike on the state’s millionaires (TPaw vetoed, current legislators have “friends” in that tax bracket), we all get to pay a personal price for a deficit that could have been less painfully averted. Instead of paying a little more as a group to keep roads safe, some people pay a little more (broken axles, flat tires) or a lot more (lost lives on the 35W bridge) because someone who would feel little pain to pay a bit more MIGHT provide a job (to whom?). Instead of working toward a balanced approach to a balanced budget, some people lose a little (no fishing license?) or a lot (laid off workers and unfulfilled contracts) for the good of a few extra dollars to pad some millionaire’s sock drawer.

  4. Submitted by will lynott on 07/05/2011 - 05:11 pm.

    That “wiseman’s committee” is not bipartisan. It’s all republicans. What, were John Hottinger, Dean Johnson, the Siebens, the Moes, Peggy Ingison, all not available?

    Oh, and I checked out Blummer’s link to the “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.” I read it twice and there’s nothing like that in there–in fact, the direct opposite. Why do they lie like that?

  5. Submitted by Howard Miller on 07/05/2011 - 06:03 pm.

    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.”

    Apparently Mr. Sutton cares not at all about the 23,000 people who have no check because the “bosses” – legislature and governor – do not agree on how to operate the state. His empathy must have run out when he was struggling to make payroll in his little company. Now, none left for fellow Minnesotans in difficult circumstance, the h-ll with public workers, people on lay-off, protecting low taxes for the rich is much more important. Gee, thanks, Tony … not really.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 07/05/2011 - 06:55 pm.

    Come on guys: The Right-wing nuts won this round:
    Smaller Govt: We almost have no Govt. Give 1 to the R-WN
    Lower Taxes: We are almost at no taxes, give 1 to the R-WN
    Christian version Sharia law: You have to give the R-WN 1 they are keeping it on the table.
    Class warfare: The lower class lost years ago, still doesn’t know it and are thinking at $45-65K a year they are part of the upper crus be real guys: 2 for the R-WN (The R-WN have one great propaganda machine)
    Corporate welfare: It has become the standard for excellence, (Supply side economics when it is a demand side problem.
    Give them 2 for this one, what a propaganda machine!
    How many more do you need to show that the W-RN have already won it all?

  7. Submitted by Deb Reed on 07/06/2011 - 06:37 am.

    Republicans marched in parades recently on the 4th of July. They were given the welcome they deserve, BOOS and thumbs down!! Get the message republicans?? Pawlenty did NOTHING for Minnesota, and Dayton wants to start the process of fixing the mistakes! You can say what you want about Mondale’s and Carlson’s “fix it” solution, but at least they care about Minnesotans!
    Republicans have shown no compassion for people!

  8. Submitted by Rod Loper on 07/06/2011 - 09:44 am.

    I understand the tax bill they passed eliminated
    the limited market value homestead exemption. The
    home town paper at my cabin showed a smirking
    republican representative posing with the county
    board as the county auditor told them that this would lead to an 8.5 percent raise in property taxes. No new taxes, right?

Leave a Reply