VOICES | Minnesota needs jobs, not jokes


Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the “State of the State is challenged.” If anything, that is an understatement.
Pawlenty’s State of the State address was long on folksy rhetoric and short on real solutions. These are serious times. We need jobs, not jokes.

We face a $5.2 billion state budget deficit and rising unemployment. Pawlenty proposed three new tax breaks for corporations. We need to erase the budget deficit before we start looking at new spending initiatives.

Yet, Pawlenty provided little substance for working families. In fact, Pawlenty proposed that he would like to freeze wages for government employees, like MAPE members. Is it really a good idea to cut wages at a time like this? We need to infuse more money into the economy, not less. That’s especially true with the governor proposing more cuts to local government aid. Besides, this issue belongs at the bargaining table.

We need all Minnesota workers using their hard-earned paychecks to buy Minnesota goods and services. Wages paid to government employees are the lifeblood of Main Street Minnesota. People are hurting. Middle class families need support, not layoffs and wage freezes.

The governor talks about creating jobs as a top priority, yet he has been a roadblock to the creation of jobs during his tenure in office. His highly touted JOBZ program doesn’t work – the nonpartisan legislative auditor did a report that showed it. So, why would we expand it? He should have talked more about fixing JOBZ.

Pawlenty’s seems to think he can get us out of this mess through charm and colloquialisms. But charisma and gimmicks will not solve this crisis. Earlier this week, Pawlenty suggested bulk purchasing of things such as road salt with Wisconsin will save $1 million. Now, we just need 5,000 more ideas like that one.

Speaking of the kitchen table approach, we must keep all of our options on the table while trying to erase this massive deficit. MAPE supports a comprehensive solution.

At the same time, we need to restore fairness to our tax system in this state. The governor continues to be an obstacle to fixing the structural defects in the state budget process. First of all, we need to restore the inclusion of inflation in the budget forecasting process. We need all of the numbers on the kitchen table so we can make informed decisions.

MAPE members know we can save tax dollars in state government by cutting waste, eliminating redundancy and streamlining how core services are delivered. That is why MAPE supports the suggestions put forward and brought to legislative leaders by our Budget and Service Cuts Task Force.

If the governor really wants to provide better service at a lower cost, he should be working with front-line workers to do that. To date, he hasn’t done that.

The governor has been dismissive of Barack Obama’s recovery plan, even though it could bring $10 billion here. In his speech, the governor invoked Obama’s name, but his lack of support for the recovery plan could jeopardize our state’s funds. This is real money that we urgently need.

It’s time to get serious. It’s time to get to work.

Jim Monroe is executive director of MAPE, the MInnesota Association of Professional Employees, which represents 11,000 state workers.