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Too many people, too much budget (05/29/2011)
By John Edstrom

Fran and I treated ourselves to a trip last week to hear the Gipsy Kings in concert at the old State Theater in Minneapolis. (They are gypsies born in France, who play guitar exquisitely and sing in Spanish in the Flamenco style. If you are unfamiliar with them, treat yourself to a listen on the Internet.)

Next morning I ordered breakfast in the hotel dining room, asking the waitress to humor a fussy quirk of mine requiring that toast be buttered while still hot back in the kitchen. I was amazed to hear her say no, it wasn’t possible, because health department regulations prohibited kitchen staff wearing plastic gloves from touching too many different items, possibly resulting in cross contamination! (I am not kidding, but freely admit that my paraphrase of her explanation could be a little garbled.)

She left to place our order for dry toast, and I thought about the many tall buildings we had driven past in St. Paul on our way to the concert. “The Health Department,” I opined to Fran, “has too many people and too much budget.”

This week, Democrat Governor Mark Dayton has vetoed the bills sent to him by the Republican legislature, designed to balance a state budget facing a $5 billion deficit. The legislators have insisted on a no tax increase budget, which was essentially the platform upon which they ran and won. The Governor insists that they must compromise and let him have a tax increase on rich people. To do otherwise, he says, would indicate an “unwillingness to assume the responsibilities of leadership.” Furthermore, their proposed cuts are “barbaric” and “un-Minnesotan.” What he apparently means here by the responsibility of leadership is some sort of obligation to compromise with him, although it is tempting to construe that the real definition is a willingness to enact continual tax increases to fund an ever bigger government.

However, in a letter to the editor in last Wednesday’s edition of the Post, Representative Steve Drazkowski, (R-Mazeppa), pointed out that in fact the legislature’s $34 billion budget proposal was exactly half way up from their original stance that it be frozen at $31, to Dayton’s spending target of $37 billion. Perhaps what is more important, is that is the of tax revenue that state government will have to spend, and it should also be noted that it is $3 billion more than the last budget. Percentage decreases being cited in the Twin Cities media are from projected increases.

Incredibly, the Governor has asked Republican legislators “why they would take the extreme position to shut down state government just to protect the wealthiest 2 percent,” blithely ignoring the fact that it is his veto that will shut down the government. The legislature has sent him a budget, as is its responsibility, in line with the expectations of the voters who put them in office with the expectation that they would force state government to live within its means. Dayton is apparently unaware that he has no constitutional power to set budgets or fund them.

He seems also ignorant of the fact that half of the taxpayers he wants to sock with a 10.95% rate, (second highest in the nation), are small businesses whose business and personal taxes are the same. That increase then, which Dayton seems to think is idle money, would be drawn from the working capital of the job generators, to be handed over to the state to fund the promulgation, among other things, of crucial regulations governing toast buttering in commercial kitchens.

Minneapolis DFL Sen. Linda Higgens, referring to cuts in state park budgets said, “A lot of Minnesotans will be very unhappy that their vacation is going to be hindered in this way.” But many more Minnesotans who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut are unhappy. What sense does it make to spend more on state parks when the money is needed in the private sector to spur the recovery and, how is crimping someone’s vacation in a state park so that government might live within its means barbaric?

What has really got Dayton and his cohorts panicky about the Republican budget are measures to freeze state salaries, and cut state employees 15% by 2015. They call it an assault on public employees, but what is the Governor’s tax increase, but an assault on private employees, who so far have done all the suffering? When these economies are put in place, the public will feel no impact at all, and realize that restaurant kitchens really can be trusted to set their own toast buttering practices. Then Minnesotans will figure out that it is not they who are demanding a high level of services, but their government which is demanding a lot of money to enlarge itself and its power, to an ever decreasing benefit for the private citizen.




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