Unallotment: a product of a less friendly Minnesota that wants to be average

Unallotment has come.

Yesterday, in a fiery press conference Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced his unilateral solution to the budget debate he was unwilling to negotiate during the legislative session. Yay, executive power! Good luck in ’12, bub. But the outcome is devastating and the governor and his allies are unwilling to admit the role they’ve played in trying to turn Minnesota into a cold weather Mississippi.

“In just one day, Governor Pawlenty has done more damage to Minnesota than he has throughout his entire career,” said [House Speaker Margaret] Kelliher, a possible candidate for governor. “The deep cuts he proposes are one more rejection of the balanced approach of both cuts and revenue preferred by Minnesotans and passed by the Legislature.” (From MinnPost)

The governor is a pleasant fellow. I’ve met him and, on paper, I can follow his policy goals from point A to point B. But his perspective on the role of government is from another universe, a closed universe that doesn’t reflect the Minnesota than most voters have supported over the last several decades.

Yes, since Gov. Pawlenty took office his policies have been rejected in three consecutive legislative elections. He got back into office with a slim plurality in 2006, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement of a strict interpretation of ultra-conservative fiscal policy when you balance it with the dozens of House seats lost by Republicans during the same period.

What Minnesotans seemed to be suggesting in their last three electoral choices is balance. Needed services funded. Efficiencies and budget cuts sought. Taxes made as fair as possible for all Minnesotans. What have we got? A governor unwilling to compromise with a democratically elected legislature, seemingly to advance his own narrow definition of the role of government. He’s entitled to his opinion. I know some people who agree with him. I know more who don’t. The governor is responsible for all Minnesotans — including that majority that didn’t vote for him or his policies in any of the last three elections.

Tuesday, friends of mine rallied on the Iron Range for the theater program at Hibbing Community College. (Photo: Hibbing Daily Tribune). The program’s full time director is leaving and the college, because of unallotment cuts that are worse than the cuts they had already planned for, is not replacing him. This theater program might sound like a throw-away thing to many who live where there are plenty of theater options, but for the Iron Range HCC’s theater represented a flagship of quality artistic expression. And it — like advanced courses in most of our schools, care for our elderly and more — are out the door not through negotiation, but through a decree.

For me and the many others who are trying to promote a better quality of life for the people of the Iron Range (or the people of any other forgotten corner of the diverse geography of Minnesota) these cuts aren’t just bean counting, they seem personal. They will damage our communities for decades and possibly longer. They will retard our growth and prosperity while the wealthy parts of the state get another pass, again.

Minnesota is one state, where the shared fate of all our people unite us for a common, universal good. Or at least it was, and could be again.

Comments

  1. I want my Minnesota back, taxes and ALL!

  2. I this guy runs for president, I’ll do everything in my bloggy and internet power to tell the whole US how he ruined Minnesota and has no understanding of finance and how we need to pay for stuff.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The legislature was there for 4-5 months and didn’t do anything to speak of but argue with each other. The budget has to be balanced by July 1. So they ended up with a decision they didn’t like. Perhaps we need to vote all the bums out the next election (Dem and Repubs) and get some new bums that hopefully will try to talk to each other. Oh yes, my husband is one of those City Government employees who could lose his job next year. You don’t see us complaining and crying foul.

  4. Your Minnesota stoicism is admirable. I don’t think anyone is blameless in all this, but the unallotment was the ultimate act of someone unwilling to compromise in a legislative process that only works when people compromise.

    I do think that the legislature ALWAYS wastes the first several weeks on piddly stuff while everyone waits for the revenue forecast and this time should be better used on contingency planning … but that’s just me.

  5. The governor implies, and sometimes states explicitly, that towns have lots of “fat” to cut and that we don’t need all these rural hospitals and nursing homes, and other things that are few and far between out here in the boonies. I guess he doesn’t know much about rural life and how much time and gas we have to spend getting to any kind of services. Plus, in small towns, the public servants already earn a small salary compared to other places. What is to be cut when our town has already done away with the police department and the town representatives have given up their salaries? The major employer, a hospital, had cut, cut, cut jobs.

    I’m not impressed by anyone who says “cut” who doesn’t cut from his own salary, nor am I impressed by those companies who are asking their employees to “work for free” if the top people haven’t cut their salaries to equal that of the middle of the pack in the worker-bee level. Feel the pain before asking others to “share” the pain.

    I’m not realistic, I know, but, hey, hard times call for new thinking.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think whining about a theatre program is ridiculous, the governor did what he had to do. The real depression has not even hit yet. And in case none of you never made it down to the house floor…the DFL had no intention of cutting any programs, just raising taxes..They have their own agenda and do not represent the real wishes of Minnesota…you will see most of them gone in the next election…they act Like children.

  7. The DFL House and Senate cut programs in the balanced budget they passed. You obviously don’t live in Hibbing or you’d realize the value to the life and culture of our people that HCC Theater represents. I don’t whine, I fight for the things in my community that matter. Enjoy your delusion.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Pawlenty is simply doing his job. The DFL controlled legislature didn’t do their’s. Amen…

  9. Balanced budget passed twice. Vetoed twice. To proceed with this argument is to proceed with a legal discussion about the balance between the legislative and executive branches of which I suppose we would be on opposite sides … until and unless we have a DFL governor and GOP legislature, right? Because it’s all politics. I do know that N-K schools no longer have band, music or art classes. That is a shame beyond shames and I’ll not entertain your chamber of commerce talking points today.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Oh well…I guess the “what a guy ought to do is keep an open mind” to understand The Range (and the rest of the world) has it’s limits..

  11. Again, I get what you are saying. We need an active entrepreneur class leading the way. But public schools and public school emphasis on fine arts, advanced math and writing and more SHOULD be an entitlement of every student in the world’s largest capitalistic democracy. If you disagree with that we have a fundamental difference. It’s not personal, it’s just a fundamental political difference.

    I’m glad you read the book and enjoyed it enough to quote it back to me. I learned how to write in a public school on the Iron Range and I will fight as hard as I have to in order to ensure that today’s children growing up the way I did have the same opportunity.

  12. It was the job of the house and senate to pass a bill the Governor would sign or pass a bill that would override a veto. Yes, Brown, it is that simple.

    I give the governor credit for doing what he can to solve the deficit crisis, once again.

    I understand your concerns and I understand your conflict of interest strengthens your bias, Aaron.

  13. K-Rod! I was worried about you. You’re back!

    Executive, Legislative, Judicial. Three legs of a stool that keep America great. My interest is a better Minnesota and my conflict is only just beginning. Good day, sir. 🙂

  14. Aww shucks, Aaron, I’m doing OK. It’s been a difficult 2009, my mother and grandfather passed away. I’ve been spending as much time as I can with family and friends up at Vermilion.

    What else has 2009 delivered? The CHANGE the Obama Oligarchy is bringing… government take over of private industry… government firing of private company CEOs… labeling people pollution emitters if they exhale… taxing energy consumption… debt, debt, and even more debt… and then some more debt on top of that…

    The deficit was a staggering $480 billion. Now it is $1.8 trillion!!! Heck of a job Barry! Way to saddle Aarons children and grandchildren with such a huge bill!

    Oberstar even blasted Obama. Sure, the honeymoon is over; too bad we can’t get an annulment.

    As for MN, when has the government ever not increased? Maybe this is just another bubble that needs correction? Socialism only “works” until you run out of other peoples money.

    As for the Hibbing theatre, has anyone stepped up and offered to do the jobs for half the price? Maybe more volunteers to get through these economic rainy days? Take matters into your own hands, ask not what your government should do for you, ask what you should do for your own community.

    One thing I hope we can all agree upon; raising taxes in such a downturn will not help the economy; rasing taxes will not lure new business growth.

  15. Hey K-Rod — I’m sorry to hear about your mother and grandfather. Your comments to this blog are often aggravating but I do wish you and your family well.

    And your proceeding comment. Wow, you’re right back in form. Actually, in the spirit of cooperation and to welcome you back I’ll list the things from you comment on which I agree with you.

    Debt. It’s a big problem and whether it was rung up by a D or a R doesn’t matter. I gather the administration thought that putting the stimulus package out there was of vital importance, but I kind of wish some of that money was back for health reform now. Health care reform could help businesses as much or more than short term construction contracts.

    Government probably does have a bubble just like real estate, financial products and cheap plastic crap. The budget deficits seen by states is probably the sound of the bubble popping.

    Your theater ideas are well taken, and no doubt that will go on in some form. However, people in the creative arts are professionals too who perform something important for their communities. HCC’s actors, stage hands, musicians and more are volunteers. But the overarching vision requires the services of a professional.

    I view taxes as one part of a citizen’s budget. Money in. Money out. The metric to look at is percentage of income paid in taxes at all levels of government. Yes, that number should be held even during rough times for the people most affected by bad economies. That’s probably not the agreement you wanted! 🙂

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