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News Day: Budget as moral document / Pork on the hill / Tax analysis / Take two aspirin / more
Budget as moral document "We're in this together," Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, reminds us, writing about Minnesota's budget in MinnPost. Bishop Rogness talks about the budget as decisions made by all of us -- "a family gathered around the table to talk things over or a small village where everyone meets in the town hall to discuss common concerns. There's no them, only us."
Our children need a strong education to equip them for productive and competitive lives, so we spare no expense to be sure they receive the best education we can give them. And when our family members get sick, we want them to be able to get the care they need to get well — and to stay well. And finally, we recognize that the family income is best pooled to provide for the collective basic needs of the whole family. This isn't rocket science — it's just common sense about how to live together and care for one another. ...
If we're in this together as Minnesotans, then I want to dig deeper. If the choice comes down to this, then I want the decision-makers — those making these decisions for me and my neighbors — to raise my taxes and to do so in the most fair and progressive way possible, rather than lower the ability to educate kids and keep my neighbors healthy. I don't want my state to shift huge tax burdens to local communities and make essential services dependent on unequal local property tax bases.
Pork on the hill Politics in Minnesota gets kudos for reporting about the newest pork legislation -- a 65-page bill that "has a couple provisioins that address the problem of feral pigs in western Minnesota." Apparently herds of pot-bellied pigs, weighing up to 300 pounds and spotting scary tusks, are roaming wild near the South Dakota border. The bill, reports PIM, would give DNR "the grizzly task of controlling the pigs." Either that's a typo, or we will soon have an even bigger, wilder problem.
Tax analysis: Makes you wish for pigs and bears In a more serious vein, PIM interviews Rep Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington) about her tax overhaul proposal. The Lenczewski proposal may not be perfect, but its attention to detail and its intent to reverse tax code complexities that result in the wealthiest Minnesotans paying a lower percentage of income in taxes than middle and low-income residents is a huge step in the right direction. The interview ranges over other finance topics as well, and is worthy of careful reading. Thanks to PIM for sharing this originally-subscription-only article.
For another analysis of "a range of revenue-raising possibilities," take a look at some budget analysis from the Minnnesota Council of Nonprofits, which lays out a range of proposals for raising revenues and puts a dollar figure on each. None of this is as much fun as reading about pot-belied pigs, but it's worth the effort to understand state finances better.
Cutting education funding Yesterday, the Senate DFL approved cuts to education funding, reports MPR, saying they favor a "shared sacrifice" model for the budget. Sen. Leroy Stumpf says cuts to E-12 fundign are necessary, and that "The budget pain translates into a cut of $273 per student each of the next two years."
So, as T-Paw proposes mandated pay freezes for all public employees, teachers will dig deeper in their own pockets to pay for paper and pencils, and parents will get more notes requesting kleenex for classrooms. Maybe schools could economize even further if parents sent toilet paper for the school bathrooms, too.
Gay marriage moving forward Not in MN, but yesterday Vermont became the fourth state to offer full marriage equality, and the first to legislate equality, reports the Daily Kos. Kos also predicts when states are likely to legalize gay marriage by ballot initiative, and predicts that MN won't do so until 2013, lagging behind 25 other states. (But then, Iowa is also on his 2013 list.) Kos has a nice quote from the Democratic Majority Leader of the Iowa Senate:
As a matter of fact, last Friday night, I hugged my wife. You know Ive been married for 37 years. I hugged my wife. I felt like our love was just a little more meaningful last Friday night because thousands of other Iowa citizens could hug each other and have the state recognize their love for each other.
Meanwhile, reports the Minnesota Independent, North Dakota voted down a bill to protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation in employment or housing.
Take two aspirin and go away Nearly one in four Minnesotans went without health insurance for some time during 2007-2008, reports the Strib. Even at that rate, Minnesotans are better-insured than residents of other states, as one in three non-elderly Americans went without health coverage during that time.
"We have reached a point where almost everyone in this country has had a family member, a neighbor or a friend who is uninsured,'' said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, the Washington, D.C., advocacy group that commissioned the study.
"Premiums have been rising more than four times faster than peoples' earnings,'' Pollack added. "As premiums absorb a larger share of family budgets, people who used to take health insurance for granted are joining the ranks of the uninsured.''
This isn't a problem that Minnesota can fix. NPR reports that national battle lines are being drawn over whether to create a Medicare-like government plan to compete with private insurance.
The Recount Forever In case you missed it - the ballots counted yesterday increased Al Franken's lead, the court will soon issue a ruling, and Norm will appeal.