The wonderful thing about e-mail is it’s so convenient … right up to the point where everything vanishes into thin air.
That happened to me recently when our legislative e-mail system crashed. We were left without access for a few days and, when our network engineer restored service, we discovered all of our files were irretrievably gone. If you sent me an e-mail March 18-21, please understand I never received it. Anything you may have sent me before that disappeared. I apologize for any inconvenience.
Meantime, legislative work continues. The first phase of the majority’s three-part plan to erase our nearly $1 billion budget shortfall passed both the House and the Senate and we are waiting for the governor to review it. The first round of cuts total approximately $313 million, with reductions to spending in areas like colleges and universities, public safety and aid to cities and counties.
Our deficit could grow by $2.7 billion if the majority is successful in suing the governor to overturn the 2009 unallotments he made. The existing plan does not provide for a way to manage that horrifying prospect.
I do not endorse this three-part piecemeal approach to balancing the budget. It indicates a lack of urgency on the part of some legislators and, if we’re not careful, it could lead us to an ever-unpopular special session.
The initial phase does not address Health and Human Services or K-12 education. About 70 percent of the state budget goes to those two areas, so the track is being laid for the majority to pit unaffordable tax increases against students and the needy.
We could have avoided being in this spot by making sure our budget plan includes the real reforms and job creation initiatives Minnesota needs. The majority put this plan together by itself, refusing to vote on floor amendments and pushing it through will little public notice. It is essentially Washington, D.C.-style politics taking root in Minnesota.
We can do better and that showed when we overhauled General Assistance Medical Care debate. The majority told us we were down to two choices - there were no other options! - but many of us kept pushing for reform and we found it. The "Plan C" we found allows us to continue providing health care for people in need, while saving taxpayers about $700 million during the next biennium.
This kind of vision would be helpful in balancing our budget for the long term, too.