Carver County GOP doesn’t understand sarcasm and lots of other things

On the Carver County GOP webpage, Waconia City Councilor Jim Sanborn mocks Rep. Tina Liebling’s (withdrawn) amendment to have the Health and Human Services Department purchase a lottery ticket for tonight’s $300+ million MegaMillions jackpot.  Well, of course, Liebling’s proposal wasn’t serious.  But there is something very serious about the budget chicanery going on in St. Paul right now.

In their desperation to produce an “all-cuts” budget, Republicans are engaging in the same sort of tricks, gimmicks and illegal activities that they’ve relied on in the last decade to avoid making hard decisions.

Liebling’s amendment was in response to a provision in the HHS bill that asserted that the state would earn a $300 million Medicaid waiver from the federal government.  Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton colorfully called such thinking “Fantasy Island”, for good reason.  The only such other waiver ever granted by the federal government — to Rhode Island — was largely funded by stimulus dollars and didn’t call for reductions in eligibility and services.  The MN GOP proposal calls for cuts in eligibility and services.  That’s not going to go over well with Federal officials, you can bet.

This isn’t the only area of the budget where Republicans are engaging in wishful thinking.  Republican Rep. Bob Gunther has sponsored a possibly unconstitutional bill that would raid the Douglas J. Johnson Development Trust Fund and apply those monies — $60 million — to the state’s General Fund.  The Johnson Trust Fund represents essentially a sales tax on taconite that is allocated to the six Iron Range counties where that activity takes place.  The fund was set up to compensate these counties for the fact that taconite mines are exempted from property taxes.  This move prompted conflict on the committee, as DFL Rep. Carly Melin proposed an amendment to cut all LGA from Gunther’s district as well as that of Rep. Ernie Leidiger (34A – Mayer).  As recounted by MinnPost:

Melin offered an amendment to the finance bill. In her amendment, she said that instead of “stealing our $60 million,” Local Government Aid funds should be cut from the district represented by the bill’s author, Gunther, and from LGA funds from the district represented by Ernie Leidiger of Mayer.

Leidiger had made the mistake of earlier saying he “enthusiastically supported” taking the Ranger money.

Melin said that she would have preferred taking property tax money from those districts but was prevented from doing so by state law. 

Leidiger’s face turned red at this suggestion. But then he made a rookie legislator’s mistake. He asked Melin a question he didn’t know the answer to.

“How much money,” he asked Melin, “does the trust fund receive from the state’s general fund?”

“Nothing, not a dollar,” said Melin.

Leidiger tried to dig out of that hole with another question.

“In the future, is the IRRRB (the Range board that oversees the Johnson Fund) expected to receive money from the general fund?”

“No,” said Melin. “Never has, never will.”

Leidiger decided to cut his losses and ask no more questions.

Leidiger also sits on the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee that tried to take the unprecedented step of raiding metro counties’ transportation funding — $69 million — and applying that to the general fund.  Since 2008, five of the seven metro counties (Carver and Scott do not participate) have paid an additional quarter percent sales tax to fund transportation projects in those counties.  Not only would this be a bad move just from the impacts this is going to have just from a transportation perspective — it puts several projects (like the Central Corridor and Southwest Corridor LRT expansions) in jeopardy, it risks bond ratings for the impacted counties, and it hurts the ability to plan effectively for the long-term — but it also sets a disastrous precedent.  Any local-approved sales tax would effectively be subject to the whims of the Legislature, which could take that money back from the local authorities anytime they saw fit.

Republicans love to bray about “local control”, but they are governing like the big government autocrats they claim to despise.  Leidiger, for instance, has already backed bills that would freeze teacher pay (taking away local control from school districts) and would prohibit cities and counties from raising property taxes after the state slashes hundreds of millions in funding (more local control gone).

Say what you will about these approaches, but they are not conservative in the traditional sense, and they most certainly are not in line with our Minnesota values.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Leidiger invites Bradlee Dean to give explosive invocation on floor of MN House [UPDATED] | Brick City Blog - May 21, 2011

    […] transportation funding,  protecting his patrons at expense of the people, backing unprecedented theft of dedicated local sales tax revenues to balance the budget, and putting party loyalty ahead of local […]

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