Just about the time you start to forget how far modern technology has advanced, your system crashes: Bye, bye, e-mail.
My e-mail is working again after I was without service for a few days when our legislative server in St. Paul suffered a meltdown. The problem now is all my electronic data has vanished, apparently never to be recovered. If you sent me an e-mail March 18-21, please understand I never saw it. Anything sent to me prior has been lost forever. I apologize for any inconvenience.
As for legislative work, the first phase of the majority’s three-part plan to erase our nearly $1 billion budget shortfall passed the Legislature and now we are awaiting action from the governor. Round 1 of cuts total approximately $313 million, with reductions to spending in areas like colleges and universities, public safety and aid to cities and counties.
The initial phase ignores Health and Human Services or K-12 education, even though approximately 70 percent of the state budget goes to those areas. Apparently those areas will be addressed in the final two phases, but you can see the majority is setting the stage for us to have to choose between cutting K-12 education cuts and accepting tax increases.
It does not have to come down to those two options and it’s not the first time we’ve been issued a set of false either-or choices. The same thing happened with the General Assistance Medical Care legislation, but some of us kept pushing for a third option – a reform-minded overhaul. We ended up passing a bill that continues providing care for the needy while saving taxpayers $700 million the next two years.
We need that kind of long-term vision with our budget, especially if the majority is successful in adding another $2.7 billion to our shortfall by prevailing in its lawsuit against the governor, overturning his 2009 unallotments. We have not received notification of how the majority plans to fix that gaping budget hole should it become reality.
We attempted to offer numerous amendments to save real money we could put toward balancing our state budget during the Phase 1 debate, but nearly all of them were rejected and parliamentary roadblocks were thrown up to avoid voting on many. I offered a common-sense amendment to help speed up the permitting process in Minnesota.
Our long, cumbersome permitting process is perhaps the top complaint of businesses trying to operate in our state. The reform I proposed would require permits to be issued or denied within 150 days of submission. Any permit not acted on by that deadline would be considered approved. This common-sense reform would greatly improve Minnesota’s job climate and help the economy recover.
Unfortunately, that amendment barely received the time of day and was not put to a vote. Blind partisanship like that really hurts our chances of finding long-term budget solutions similar to what we achieved with GAMC.