As the Labor Review went to press, the Minnesota state legislature faced a March 25 deadline for action on major appropriation and finance bills. Members of the new Republican majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate ran in the 2010 election promising jobs. But instead of backing Governor Mark Dayton’s jobs bill, or introducing their own job-creating legislation, members of the Republican majorities have introduced bills cutting public services, attacking public sector workers and their collective bargaining rights, and attempting to grab power from locally-elected school boards by proposing a statewide freeze on teacher salaries and eliminating teacher tenure. Where are the jobs?
“I’ve never seen an onslaught and I’ve never seen an assault against good Minnesotans as I’ve seen in this legislature so far,” said Governor Mark Dayton, speaking at Education Minnesota’s annual Representative Convention in Bloomington March 19.
Where are the jobs? The Alliance for a Better Minnesota has established a website – www.gopjobcounter.com – offering a running total reporting the numbers of jobs created by Republican-sponsored legislation. As the Labor Review went to press March 20, the counter displayed three pairs of double-digit zeroes.
Where are the jobs? “Republicans in the Minnesota legislature have introduced more than 50 toxic bills that attack public-sector workers and put public services at risk,” AFSCME Council 5 reported March 18. “They’re importing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s tactics to Minnesota.”
Where are the jobs? “The Republican majorities want to give hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts to their rich friends and corporate donors. And they want public workers to pay for it with wage and benefit cuts. They’ve declared war on the middle class and they won’t stop until none of us can earn a decent living or retire with dignity,” said Eliot Seide, AFSCME Council 5 director.
’50 toxic bills’
Here is a brief look at some of the anti-worker legislation that has been introduced, along with the bill numbers (SF = Senate File, HF = House File):
- Cut corporate income taxes – even though it makes the state’s budget deficit $200 million worse (SF1).
- Cut corporate property taxes – even though it squeezes schools and local governments even more (SF1).
- Extend existing tax breaks for corporations (HF483). Giving corporations these extra tax breaks means homeowners will have to pick up more of the property tax tab.
- Drive down wages for all workers – and handcuff unions and their members’ power to improve wages, benefits and working conditions – by adding “work for less” loopholes through an amendment to the state constitution (HF65).
- Cut the state workforce by 15 percent, which will eliminate 5,000 jobs in the middle of a recession (HF4).
- For state workers whose jobs remain, impose a two-year wage freeze (HF127); increase the threat of privatization (HF53); force them to compete to keep their own jobs (HF192); and pave the way to eliminate their pensions. (SF81).
- Eliminate equal pay for women (HF7, SF282).
- Cut prevailing wage rates for public construction projects (HF513).
- Impose a two-year wage freeze on all public school employees and outlaw economic strikes by school employees. (SF56, HF381).
- Limit teacher tenure to 5 years and give school districts the ability to unilaterally terminate teachers at the end of every 5-year period (SF251).
- Allow the Minnesota State Colleges and Univerisities to deny seniority raises to full-time faculty (SF253).
- Consolidate all accounting, financial, procurement, fleet service, human resource, and payroll functions of all executive branch agencies into one agency – or allow them all to be privatized (HF418).
- Cut more state aid to higher education, which means more layoffs, fewer courses, but higher tuition (SF60).
- Cut tax breaks for renters, but keep the decade-old tax breaks for millionaires (HF129, SF82).
- Weaken arbitration for employees of local units of government (HF501).
- Eliminate a January 15 deadline by which school districts and their employees must reach collective bargaining agreements (HF115, HF464).
- Make it more difficult for public employees and retirees to participate in insurance programs (HF371, SF247).
- Drive up costs of retiree health insurance (HF404)
‘A divisive, ideological agenda’
“Minnesota Republicans may claim they’re focused on the economy and budget, but it’s becoming clearer every day they’d rather bring Wisconsin politics into the Minnesota Capitol,” said State Senator Barb Goodwin (DFL-Columbia Heights).
The Republicans’ tax bill would lead to an estimated $1.4 billion increase in property taxes over the next four years, Governor Dayton’s office estimated.
Goodwin said, “Republicans are more interested in attacking working families than doing the hard work of balancing the state’s budget.”
“This is a very important time at the Capitol,” Goodwin said. “We are just beginning the important process of putting together the Legislature’s budget proposal. This is not the time to bring such a divisive, ideological agenda into the Capitol.”
Where are the jobs?
This story includes reporting by Michael Kuchta, communications director for AFSCME Council 5. For more on the “50 toxic bills,” visit www.afscmemn.org