Trade unions demanding a ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ bonding bill

AFTERNOON EDITION

Just as national Republicans have yet to introduce anything resembling a “jobs bill,” such as they demanded last fall, neither have the locals made any specific moves toward re-employing the unemployed. To that end, Tom Scheck of MPR notes the exasperation of the state’s construction trade unions: “A coalition of labor and environmental groups is calling on Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders to end the six-day-old government shutdown with a budget deal that creates new jobs. Members of the Blue Green Alliance said the mass layoff of public employees, as well as the idling of thousands of construction workers, is hurting Minnesota. Bob Struve of the American Council of Engineering Companies said the 150 companies he represents in Minnesota could lose 1,000 jobs in a prolonged shutdown. ‘Construction is a seasonal business, and the damage caused by a long shutdown means that jobs, projects will be moved to 2012 and possibly even cancelled,’ Struve said. ‘The damage to our firms could be very, very significant.’ As members called for an end to the shutdown, they renewed their call for Dayton and GOP legislative leaders to pass a bonding bill. Dayton proposed a $1 billion bonding bill early in the session, but GOP leaders never supported it.” But at least they didn’t waste our time with a lot of social issues, right?

Basic coverage — the “what are they doing today” stuff — is already pretty predictable, as reporters struggle to cover a lot of nothingness relative to The Shutdown. Politics in Minnesota’s Briana Bierschbach reports that both the Legislature and 20 of Gov. Dayton’s staff remain on the state payroll. “[S]taffers from both Gov. Mark Dayton’s office and the Legislature will continue on the payroll as they work to hash out a deal to solve the $5 billion budget deficit. Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled the Legislature a ‘core’ function of the state, meaning both the House and Senate can operate with full staff — non partisan and partisan — until at least the end of July. In Dayton’s office, nearly 20 staffers ranging from top policy aides to residence support will continue to work through the shutdown.”

Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent sniffs around GOP Chairman Tony Sutton’s new $100,000 salary and his simultaneous call for contributions to fight Dayton’s tax schemes: “GOP leaders said it’s completely appropriate because the DFL does it too. The DFL sent an email asking supporters to sign a petition in support of Dayton’s position, and like many emails sent by the party, it contained a contribute button in the sidebar. ‘We can’t allow these government officials to put the interests of a few millionaires ahead of the needs of all Minnesotans,’ the Democrats’ email said. ‘It’s up to us to stand up and demand that a reasonable compromise be found. Speak out today and tell the GOP lawmakers that they need to stop their grandstanding and start compromising.’ The fundraising campaign came the same day that Sutton announced he would be drawing a salary for the first time as head of the party. It’s also at the same time the party finds itself in debt to several Minnesota counties who are owed money from the 2010 gubernatorial recount (the state party’s debt is unknown as the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure database is unavailable due to the shutdown).”

Also, another Birkey story on the top donors pushing the GOP’s singular legislative accomplishment this pass session … the gay marriage referendum bill: “High-dollar contributors include the owner of a DVD-replicating business who has given large sums to Republican causes and the chairman of a sports apparel company that’s received $2 million in defense contracts. And even staffers of the Minnesota Family Council have kicked in big money. The Minnesota Independent took a look at lobbying reports, campaign finance filings and foundation tax records and found a large amount of money coming from a handful of people. Lobbying reports don’t include the amount of money given to a particular lobbyist, only whether the donation was more than $500 per year. And campaign finance reports are limited to funds that went toward advertising, print or other electioneering communication and activity. Three groups have been behind the push for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The Minnesota Family Council (which also runs Minnesota for Marriage), the Minnesota Catholic Conference (a part of Minnesota for Marriage) and Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage (which reformed under the banner of Minnesota Majority several years ago). Reports show that lobbying by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the policy arm of the Roman Catholic Church in Minnesota, is exclusively funded by the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis, unlike other organizations which have a diversity of donors.” I’m sure its an oversight on my part, so maybe someone could point out where either newspaper or any local TV newsroom covered this?

Matthew Jaffe of ABC News, noting the fire back and forth between Walter Mondale and T-Paw, quotes Hamline professor David Schultz at length in explaining the state’s financial condition: “ ‘Short of talking to the most partisan Tim Pawlenty supporters, you will probably get a consensus that he left the state in a financially very bad position,’ Schultz continued. ‘In his last two years in office — from when he started campaigning for John McCain back in 2008 — he pretty much ignored the state and his approach to dealing with the state’s budget problems seemed to be akin to sort of saying, ‘Shove it into the future. Why do I have to worry about it?‘ That record, Schultz believes, could pose a serious problem for Pawlenty as he seeks the GOP nomination. ‘I think it potentially hurts him in a couple of ways,’ he said. ‘People are going to start to look at where Minnesota is today. Here’s a state with a huge budget deficit and he’s running on the claim that he can go to Washington and solve the budget problems there. I’m not sure that works for him. I don’t think he can really say that he left the state in better fiscal position than what he inherited,’ Schultz said.” Not to disagree with the professor, but I doubt T-Paw’s record hurts him at all with his target Iowa demographic.

Tom Dennis, in a Grand Forks Herald editorial, offers his version of a “third way” out of our current situation: “Across America, in state after state and under Democratic and Republican leaders alike, elected officials are wrestling with the generous benefits, guaranteed pensions and good salaries that have pushed public-sector wages and benefits notably above many private sector counterparts. These changes likely are coming to Minnesota, too. In fact, they’ve already begun: This week, a court upheld the state’s ability to reduce retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments — reductions that would have been unthinkable in years past. But in Minnesota, there’s also a better chance that the labor could get something useful in return. That something is a tax increase, a way of keeping the reductions from biting too deep and of making the new system sustainable for the long term. That, at least, could be the outcome if former Gov. Arne Carlson and former Vice President Walter Mondale’s new committee settles on this as its “third way”: a tax increase in return for civil service, public-sector pension and/or collective bargaining reforms.” And if that “tax increase” is restricted to (expanded) sales taxes? How does that work for retirees and pensioners?

Jonathan S. Henes at CNBC looks at the national debt ceiling brawl vis a vis Minnesota in the thrall of Tea Party politics: “[T]he shutdown of Minnesota’s government demonstrates that politicians do not always blink, and the consequences from their failure to compromise can be great. If the federal debt ceiling debate ends up like the budget showdown in Minnesota, the Treasury will need to determine which 40 percent of the federal government’s obligations to cut immediately, and the market and public reaction may be swift and severe. Minnesota has a $5 billion budget deficit. Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, led negotiations with the Republican leadership regarding how to close the gap. During the negotiations, it was a given that education and social services would be cut dramatically. They needed to be to balance the budget. The primary disagreement between Gov. Dayton and the Republican leaders was about the Dayton’s proposal to increase taxes on Minnesota’s 7,700 millionaires. The tax proposal was being floated as a counter-balance to the significant spending cuts to education and social services. The negotiations died over this issue.”

The shutdown is proving to be a minor boon to our beloved neighbors to the east. Brian Bull of Wisconsin Public Radio writes: “Wisconsin campground owners say the turn of events left many outdoor buffs in Minnesota without a place to set camp, but the immediate result was a quick and welcome boost to their bottom line. “You just go ahead and tell’em that Wisconsin is ‘open for business.’ Come see us!” laughs Lori Severson, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners. WACO has nearly 200 members operating private campsites across the state, including many in the Indian Head region that borders Minnesota. Severson says after the shutdown, her organization was flooded with ‘a few hundred’ calls from Minnesotans and Iowans, wanting a place to camp. ‘We’re sad to say that unfortunately, we probably lost some of the folks just that could not get through,’ admits Severson.” Now, if we could get Wisconsin to take over care of battered women, the mentally ill, the aged poor …

The Wall Street Journal and others pick up Jenna Ross’s Strib story on the U of M essentially saying “to hell” with unreliable state funding and going to private underwriting: “The U Law School and the Carlson School of Management are both looking at trading what little is left of their state funding for private fundraising that could give them more control over how they operate. The two are poised to join a handful of elite schools nationwide in seeking self-sufficiency instead of state support. It might happen in a year, or longer. But already, the U is assessing the idea’s merits. Being self-reliant could accelerate the schools’ fundraising. But some university leaders, students and alumni worry that it could also weaken their commitment to Minnesota. The final word will rest with new President Eric Kaler, who took charge of the U Friday along with its $3.7 billion budget, millions of dollars in budget cuts and public pressure to tamp down tuition increases. Newly departed President Robert Bruininks lamented the privatization trend but considers it ‘inevitable’ that a few of the U’s schools will break from state funding.” Maybe they can get Monsanto to underwrite the ag school?

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by will lynott on 07/09/2011 - 02:43 pm.

    #2, you failed to note that my comment was directed at the representative of the American Council of Engineering Companies. That’s not a union, it’s a trade association of employers.

    That said, I’m afraid I know personally a number of construction types, out of work and all, who vote republican and blame our Governor for the shutdown. If this is news to you, check out “What’s the matter with Kansas” by Thomas Frank, an in-depth look at why so many working people have been persuaded to vote in direct conflict with their own interests.

    I recall being told a number of years ago that 1/3 of union members voted for Bush II in both elections. My union father in law voted for Reagan twice. Sobering.

    We have to turn that around. I’m open to ideas.

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