Hey…wanna make some money?

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by Myles Spicer | June 1, 2009 • It will be easy. Just check into the new FALSE CLAIMS law that was recently passed by the Legislature, and signed by Governor Pawlenty. And therein lies an irony, as you will shortly see.

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The new law was sponsored by St. Louis Park DFLer Rep. Steve Simon, and championed by his fellow DFLer, Bob Latz, who stated: “It’s the recovery of stolen taxpayer dollars…we could be looking at tens of millions of dollars”. As the Star Tribune article of May 28 proclaimed: “When the state gets cheated, or a fraud is perpetrated, it now pays to speak up”. Well, that’s what I am doing, and you may want to join me, because the law further states that whistleblowers are entitled to a 15-30% cut.

All we have to do is determine “who cheated the state” – and I have already found a candidate. It is Governor Tim Pawlenty himself! While I personally feel there are a myriad of ways he did this, we only need a few to make our case, and make some money. Let’s start with the fraud angle.

Pawlenty has represented to the voters of our state over and over again that his “no tax” policy would create a strong business environment that would bring the state significant business development and prosperity. Wrong! Since he has been in office our unemployment rate has soared – admittedly as has the rest of the country. With one important difference, Minnesota’s unemployment rate which historically and always trailed the rest of the country now has frequently exceeded the national rate. His “no tax” policy has not only driven us into a $5 Billion deficit…it has actually damaged our business environment to the extent that we are now worse off than most states. Latest reported unemployment in Minnesota, an astounding 8.2%. Certainly we can claim a “political” fraud – what is 15-30% of that?

The Pawlenty “no tax” pledge additionally has not really reduced taxes as he purports, because other taxes have risen. Notably property taxes and user fees, thus shifting a greater burden on the middle class to the relief of upper income payers. What’s more, the Pawlenty plan has played havoc with local communities who depend of state aid for public safety, education and health care needs. They have limited powers of recovering those funds, user fees and property taxes being most accessible. But the cuts in health care support are the most egregious, and the ones that will gain us the most reward in our quest for whistleblower rewards, because it is estimated that by cutting health care funding the state has lost about $380 million in matching Federal funding.

Sadly, the human cost is even more. One of the funds that Pawlenty vetoed when he rejected the Legislature’s budget plan is known as GAMC; and it covers adults without children making less than $8,000 per year. Often, they are mentally ill, or have medically debilitating diseases. Take a moment and try to imagine what life would be like if you only had $8,000 a year to spend on food, clothing, medical care, and various sundries that allow people to live. Now imagine, if you can, your health insurance is taken away. This means, of course you have to choose between one visit to the emergency room with diagnostics and x-rays, or your “salary” for the year. What would you do? Right, I wouldn’t pay my bill either, because I couldn’t.

Federal funding provides almost one in every four dollars of Minnesota’s state budget, and much of that federal funding is appropriated annually. With the state facing a
budget shortfall and an economic slowdown, Minnesota needs the federal budgets we can obtain to fund vital services, and sustain Minnesota’s quality of life. The aforementioned matching healthcare funding is now lost. As a taxpayer, I feel I was cheated – at least cheated out of $380 million of matching Federal funds. Does that count for a reward? If so, we whistleblowers stand to gain about $114 million. See how easy it is.

As a final whistleblower fraud allegation, I am charging the Governor with a fraud in his governance of our state. For the first time in the history of Minnesota, a single politician will make vital decisions on who gets state money…and who is cut out! This is a clearly a legislative function, and one that should be done by the people’s representatives. Instead, Pawlenty decided that there will no Special Session to iron out differences (as there has been in all past such disputes), and instead he will make the needed “unallotments” to balance the budget. Slashing spending by up to $2.7 Billion as Pawlenty will likely do, can have a lasting and significantly damaging affect on our fair state – and it will! Alright, I know State Law allows him to have that power, so I withdraw my whistleblower reward on this issue, but I still blow the whistle on outrageous behavior, arrogance, and disgraceful governing.

So, for those of you who are with me, let’s add up our reward: lost jobs, excessively high unemployment, lost Federal funding, damage caused by lost state aid to communities, kowtowing to the Taxpayers League (that’s got to be worth at least something), damage to our educational system (kids should get paid double the penalty), failure to properly repair our roads and bridges, taking on the role of a king rather than a representative governor of the people; let’s see, 15-30% of that would likely be… oh, hell, what’s the difference, he’s not going to pay up anyway.

Well, that idea, kind of fell flat, although it was fun exorcising my frustration. Let’s try my second best idea. What about if we get lots of big investors…promise a huge return…and pay them off with funds we get by adding new investors? Sounds like a plan!

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