HB V

is older than it's ever been and now it's even older

7/08/2005

Liberal Ravings, part II.



In an astounding series of coincidences, my old posting about the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon got (indirectly) linked in this Ask Metafilter question:

Isn't there a name for that phenomenon wherein, once you start paying attention to something, you see it everywhere? You know, like when you buy a 1980 Toyota Celica, for example, and all of the sudden you see one on every block.


And then later the same day, this Metafilter thread about “amazing coincidences” gets posted, and that very same posting of mine gets linked in the thread. I mean, that’s freaking weird.

Okay, where was I?

Oh, yes, the Minnesota GOP.

It astounds me that I’ve been covering Minnesota budgeting politics as long as I have; in fact, some of my better postings from back when I was regularly updating the site were from the Ventura administration (or, as we like to term him, Governor Turnbuckle). Here was my diagnosis of the problem in June of 2001:

The issue is that the House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans, the Senate is controlled by Democrats, and neither side can agree on the amount of property tax relief, so here we are. There was an agreement in place, but when it came time for the conference committees to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bills, the Senate got cold feet because most of the tax relief was for businesses and very little would benefit residential property taxes, especially lower and middle income residences.


So, what’s different now? Well, plenty. Back in 2001 there were still issues of ‘tax relief’, i.e., they have too much money and what should happen with it. That is obviously not the issue any more. The governor is a Republican now, a particularly pernicious sort named Tim Pawlenty. I say pernicious because he’s of the modern Minnesota ilk of Republican—young, fresh-faced, and utterly beholden to the Tax League of Minnesota, which holds to a particular fire-eating credo of ‘no raising taxes ever.’

He won election in 2002 primarily because the Democrats (the DFL) has a tradition of nominating the oldest guy in the party for election, which means that young and fresh-faced beats old and crusty; in that case it was Roger Moe, who had served so much time the DFL convention thought they owed it to him to nominate him ahead of someone who was younger and better looking and with better ideas (sorry, Judi.). Governor Turnbuckle was tired of state politics and the gridlock, and frankly I miss him. At least he told it to us like it was and forced the two parties to split the difference and compromise.

BUT I DIGRESS. So going into 2004 the GOP thought that Minnesota was in play for the electoral votes and that they could pick up seats in both houses—which didn’t happen. The GOP was overall drubbed, losing 13 seats in the House (but maintaining a razor-thin majority), lost more seats in the Senate, and came out looking bad all the way around. But the GOP still went into this year’s budgeting determined to not raise taxes, even though we were facing huge budget shortfalls, and the last time the state faced these issues they solved the shortfalls by accounting tricks and cutting poor people out of health care and such. As MPR summed it up at the end of the 2003 session:

After a drawn-out battle on whether to raise taxes, Senate DFLers decided at the end of the regular session to abandon the fight. Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger said Democrats became convinced Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, was prepared to shut down the government rather than break his pledge not to raise taxes. That meant a $4.23 billion budget shortfall was erased solely through shifts, cuts and fees. The biggest cuts came in health and social services programs.


So here we were again. Why is the state GOP bad?

Well, they’re willing to throw people in poverty out of the state health care pool in order to cut the budget, for one.

Pawlenty would rather play a semantic game and call a cigarette tax a fee than admit that there’s a revenue problem. (not, by the way, that I mind cigarette taxes much. I don’t smoke, after all. But it seems suspect that he wants to solve revenue problems by a regressive tax that will disproportionately hurt poor people than his base)

Pawlenty would abandon his ‘Moral Majority’ position in a second to raise money without it being called a tax—especially if it comes in the form of a casino. State sponsored gambling is pretty abhorrent as I see it—funding the state on the backs of a few, especially since there are people that are specifically vulnerable to gambling.

Anyway, to sum up: when the state had a surplus, it was “your money” and that meant that permanent “tax relief” had to get passed. Now that there’s a shortfall, that means that it’s time to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, and the ‘no new taxes’ Bolsheviks insisted on having nothing to negotiate. I only hope that cooler heads prevail next November—but I doubt it. No incumbent governor that has chosen to run for re-election has been defeated since 1966.

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