As a youngster, I saw a news story that described how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) helped to protect human health and the environment from pollution and hazardous waste.
That was all I needed to see. Wanting to make a difference, I spoke with people at the MPCA, went to college and graduated with a science degree. For the last 15 years, I have worked at MPCA and am a member of its Emergency Response Team.
We provide guidance and help with the clean-up of man-made or natural disasters that damage the environment, and pose a health and safety risk to our communities.
We also regularly train firefighters and businesses and on how to response to chemical spills, sewage spills or other toxic waste.
During my career at the MPCA, I have worked with truly amazing and highly dedicated people in all levels of government. But that did not matter when last summer’s government shutdown forced thousands of us to pay a tremendous price for the failures of our elected officials.
We witnessed our elected officials at the State Capitol butting heads each and every day. And, what was the result of their lack of leadership? 19,000 highly educated, dedicated and professional employees were laid off, due to no fault of their own.
State employees take great pride in our jobs and wanted to work on behalf of taxpayers. However, for selfish political reasons we were locked out. This was very difficult mentally and financially for those of us forced into this situation.
In addition, private sector employees who had contracts with the State were also out of work and went without pay because of political games.
The citizens and businesses were denied services they needed and deserve. This tragic and disgusting failure of government rests squarely on the shoulders of the elected officials at the capital. The reputation of a state that works is tarnished for the foreseeable future.
It was very clear to me from watching all of this, we were the pawns in a game we did not want to play and a game we are still paying for this holiday season.
Interestingly enough, although elected officials were willing to have state employees take a financial hit for them not doing their jobs, many of these elected officials continued to take paychecks.
There was even a sly and cowardly bunch who said they would not take pay during the shutdown, but when the news media was not paying attention, they decided they would take pay for not doing their jobs after all.
The conservative legislative majority shut our government down and forced both public and private sector workers into the ranks of the unemployed.
The conservative majority took money out of hard working middle class workers’ wallets so Minnesota’s wealthiest did not have to pay their fair share in taxes. I have heard wealthy people say they are willing to pay a little more to protect the quality of life in Minnesota but conservatives ignored that.
Conservatives want to blame teachers, nurses, state workers, unions, the poor, the middle class, the less fortunate, the elderly and so many others for the state’s problems. Perhaps it’s time for conservatives to look in the mirror and see where the blame lies.
There was a cost to the shutdown and those of us who felt it won’t soon forget, especially when we cast our ballots next year.
Jason Moran works for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and is a member of MAPE.