A telephone help line service for the elderly will not be ringing today in Minnesota.
Blind residents reliant on state funding for reading services will remain in the dark for as long as the government’s lights are turned off. Poor families who receive subsidies for childcare are on their own. The St. Louis Park Emergency Program’s food shelf will have bare pickings for those who depend on the program for sustenance. The Community
Action Center of Northfield will likely be forced to close down its homeless shelter without the state funding upon which it relies to house the homeless.
And yes, 23,000 state workers will be trying to figure out how to care for their families without a paycheck for the duration along with an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 construction workers who will be laid off as the state shuts down dozens of road and highway projects.
These are but a few of the consequences of the shutdown of Minnesota’s government.
At issue is how to close a $5 billion deficit in the state left by the previous Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, had tried to bargain his way toward an agreement by offering up massive cuts in state services. In return, he asked the Republicans to agree to a tax increase for the wealthier citizens of the state to make up the remainder of the funding required to close most of the gap in the budget.
But the Republicans held firm on taxes – even when Dayton made his final offer that would have placed an additional 3% tax on only those Minnesotans earning over $1 million a year, a burden that would have been placed on just .03% of all Minnesotans.
It’s not so much that the state’s GOP leaders had a violent, allergic reaction to those earning seven figures a year having to pay a few percentage points more in taxes. What appears to have ended negotiations were the
Republican demands that Governor Dayton agree to their social agenda issues, including Voter ID legislation and abortion restrictions, as the price for the Republicans allowing the very wealthy to pay a little more.
When the Governor refused to swallow the notion that the conservative social agenda should be used as a tool to resolve budgetary issues, the talks broke down and the lights at the statehouse were turned off.
So, you might wonder, how did the Minnesota GOP suggest that the gap in the finances be met even as they seemed to realize that there was little left for the Governor to offer on the cutting side of the ledger?
You won’t believe it.
The Republicans actually proposed creating more debt to close the gap.
The GOP proposed delaying another $700 million in payments owed to schools, which would add to the more than $1 billion the state already owes K-12 schools.
Republicans also offered to issue “tobacco bonds” of an unspecified amount to cover any remaining budget gap. Sources said Dayton considered the offer, but he criticized it as unwise borrowing late Thursday. Via The Star Tribune
I guess a Republican has to do what a Republican has to do when it comes to protecting the wealthiest in the state from paying a higher tax rate- even if it means creating more debt despite a GOP platform that, allegedly, abhors debt.
If you find the lessons of Minnesota disturbing, get used to it.
What you are seeing is simply the national debate playing out on a smaller stage. I suppose this is what Republicans mean when they suggest using the states as laboratories for what will and won’t work on the national level.
You can bet that every political player on the national stage will be watching to see how the Minnesota public reacts to their situation along with which party gets the lion’s share of the blame for bringing this blight upon their land.
If Governor Dayton caves and simply accepts the GOP budget, we can expect that our Congressional Republicans would take great heart in such an occurrence and be emboldened to stick with the plan.
If the GOP legislators begin to fear that their jobs may be in jeopardy as punishment for shutting down the state in order to protect a little more than 7,000 Minnesotans earning at least a million bucks a year, that too will be noticed.
Watch the polls in Minnesota over the next week or two. They may tell you everything you need to know about what is likely to happen as we move towards resolving the debt ceiling debate.
By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, Junly 1, 2011