The same adjectives apply to the legislative performance going on just a few blocks from the slowly melting, glacial pile of crud in the Sears parking lot. The last few days before the end of the session give evidence of a frozen intransigence, with the Republican majorities voting for cut after painful cut—cut money for the courts, cut money for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth schools, cut money for crime victim protection programs, cut money for higher ed, cut medical care for the poorest of the poor, cut general assistance for poor and disabled adults, cut, cut, cut.
The list seems never-ending. DFL press releases describe some of the consequences:
On cuts to public employment:
State Rep. Phyllis Kahn: “On top of the 5,000 middle-class, public sector jobs this bill would cut, the Republicans are also targeting nearly 1,500 private sector employees for job losses. Every job loss, public or private sector, hurts our economy. It’s money that won’t be spent in local small businesses, restaurants or shopping malls. This bill, along with the rest of the Republican budget, will destroy our fragile economic recovery.”
On cuts to education:
State Rep. Tom Rukavina: “What we are doing to our students and the future workforce of our state is indefensible. This historic cut would hike tuition, cancel courses, lay off teachers and eliminate programs. All of this, to protect the wealthiest Minnesotans from paying another cent to balance our budget.”
On cuts to environmental programs:
State Rep. Jean Wagenius: “This bill says no to our state’s long tradition of protecting our natural resources that all Minnesotans use and enjoy. This bill makes the wrong choices and walks back decades of protections for clean water. Just three years ago 56 percent of Minnesotans voted to increase the sales tax because they wanted greater protection for their drinking water, for our lakes, rivers and streams, for our wetlands, forests and other habitat. This budget makes huge cuts in each area.”
On cuts to jobs programs:
State Rep. Tim Mahoney: “Republicans have turned their back on unemployed Minnesotans. The so-called Jobs bill does nothing but cut job creation in Minnesota. It cuts every tool the state has to help businesses throughout Minnesota expand their operations, become more competitive and increase their workforce.”
On transportation cuts:
State Rep. Frank Hornstein: “This cut takes away the ride to the doctor for seniors across our state. Harmful cuts like this are the wrong priorities, especially since the very wealthiest Minnesotans are not asked to contribute one penny to a budget solution.”
State Rep. Paul Thissen: “In order to meet the Republican bottom line, grandma just got left at the bus stop. She’s going to be waiting a long time, especially in greater Minnesota, because the bus is never coming.”
On cuts to the court and justice systems:
State Rep. Sheldon Johnson: “The bill funding the state’s judiciary is a disservice to all Minnesotans. Continued underfunding of state courts is reaching a crisis level. This bill only perpetuates the problem of reduced access, overworked public defenders and lack of a speedy trial. Minnesotans deserve better than to continue this path of slowly asphyxiating an entire branch of government.”
State Rep. Joe Mullery: “The GOP also cuts funding for state prisons, reducing rehabilitation services for prisoners and making them more dangerous when they are released into our neighborhoods. The bill cuts the Department of Public Safety which helps convict criminals. It makes drastic cuts in aids to raped women, severely beaten children, spouses and other victims of violent crime. The bill raids funds dedicated to public safety and transfers that money to non-safety portions of the state budget.”
As the Republican budget bills hit his desk in the next few days, Governor Dayton’s veto pen is sure to get a workout. On May 19, he vetoed the Republican legislative and Congressional redistricting bills, saying in his veto message that districts were “too partisan, drawn for the purpose of defeating a disproportionate number of Democrats.”
What are the chances of reaching a budget compromise before adjournment on May 23? Probably as good as the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell, and considerably less than a glacier’s chance in mid-May in Minnesota.
Republican leadership accuses Dayton of being unwilling to compromise, though he has offered to meet them halfway, cutting the tax proposals he originally made. Frozen in a no-new-taxes position, Republicans seem to think that “compromise” means arguing over whether to cut more money from, for example, K-12 education or higher education. Maybe they need to go back to school to learn the difference between the give-and-take involved in compromise and the my-way-or-the-highway attitude more correctly identified as a demand for capitulation.
Although five months of hot air wafting over from the Capitol hasn’t thawed the St. Paul glacier, I’m betting that it will be melted well before there’s any agreement on a state budget.