Sometimes, it’s not just the weather that makes you cranky. Sometimes, it’s the politicians that drive you nuts. Let’s take some folks out to the woodshed for some well-deserved constructive criticism.
Legislative Republicans: For Digging the Hole Even Deeper
A few days ago, we talked about how Legislative Republicans were engaging in some rather remarkable rhetoric about the state budget — and that their promises were unlikely to add up unless they introduced substantial cuts to all areas of the budget outside of K-12 education and health and human services. Well, yesterday, it got worse. House DFLers introduced their K-12 education bill, and Republicans (Rep. Kelby Woodard again) added to their audacious promises. Already faced with the prospect of coming up with nearly $1.5 billion in cuts, Woodard signed the GOP up for a 2% increase in the basic formula ($300 million) and fixing the special education funding gap (another $475 million on top of the DFL proposal). Doing all of what Woodard and the GOP claim can be done with “existing resources” would now take over $2 billion in cuts to other areas of the budget, or nearly a 20% across-the-board cut. Again, remember these numbers the next time a Republican legislator bloviates about how everything can be done with “existing resources” without offering any details of how they would make it happen.
Governor Mark Dayton and House DFLers: For Bonding Bills That Need Some Changes
This week, Governor Mark Dayton and the House DFL caucus released their proposals for odd-year bonding packages. Such requests are somewhat uncommon, as bonding is usually done in even years only, although additional bonding has become a frequent point of negotiation during budget stalemates in recent years. While I agree with DFL logic that we should take advantage of low interest rates to invest in infrastructure, an odd-year bonding package should imply that we’re doing some special things here. Too much of both proposals is taken up with the same old local projects (many of which have been already rejected in previous cycles), which can easily wait for inclusion in the usual even-year bonding package. The House bill has some stronger elements to it — particularly its increased emphasis on transportation and higher education projects.
It’s also inconceivable to me that you can have two $800 million bonding bills, none of which make any commitment to the Mayo Clinic “Destination Medical Center” proposal. As a state, we have an opportunity to support nearly $6 billion in private investment in the state with a maximum of $585 million in infrastructure improvements. We should be jumping at this opportunity to help create thousands of long-term, good-paying jobs in Southern Minnesota by including a substantial investment towards this project (between $75 and $150 million as called for in the stand-alone legislation).
I’d like to see a more focused bonding bill that focuses on transportation, higher education, State Capitol renovation, and the Mayo project — less expensive and more appropriate for an odd-year bonding package.
While we’re at it, let’s also deliver a kick-in-the-pants to the Democratic majorities in the Legislature for the leisurely pace of their budget bills so far. Last session, the Republican majorities had already passed through the first version of all the budget proposals by this point (to be fair, they then languished for a long time in conference committee before coming back for final approval). It’s time to shift the budget process into a higher gear, folks.
Minnesota Vikings Stadium Supporters: For Not Facing Reality
Here’s another issue where on the merits, Governor Mark Dayton and other Minnesota Vikings stadium supporters are right. In the whole scheme of things, the shortfall in e-pulltab revenues is a problem, but not a crisis. And stadium opponents are indeed grandstanding (here’s looking at you, Sen. Sean Nienow). But, guess what? This problem was foreseeable at the start — maybe not to this extent — but it was hardly a secret that there were serious concerns over the revenue projections. If you want to shut Nienow and the like up, the answer is simple: fix the bill and put in place a better backup plan. Trying to wait this thing out in the hopes the revenue situation will improve is only going to make this issue grow and grow and grow.
It would also help matters if the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Sports Facilities, which will have oversight of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority budget was more balanced from an ideological perspective. Of the 12 members, 10 voted for the stadium bill, one voted against (Rep. Jim Davnie) and one is a freshman (Sen. Karin Housley). Having some legislators with a more skeptical eye would be useful to the process.
Carver County GOP: For Wallowing in Sleaze and Extremism
Our good friends over at the Carver County GOP have taken to the Twitter. So far, they’ve managed to find links to just about every cheap and baseless conspiracy theory out there. Here are a few examples:
One would have thought that official Republican party bodies would have given up birtherism and bogus voter fraud nonsense by now, but I guess not. But if tinfoil hats are your thing, you should follow them.