The St. Cloud Times today offered readers several dueling letters over who is to blame for the failures of the recently ended legislative session. While I am of the belief that no side is without blame, it becomes very difficult to express that sentiment when the echo chambers of the local Republican Party refuse to acknowledge even the smallest level of fault.

Gary Gross, who represents the propaganda machine for the local conservative movement, provides ample spin and distortion with his humorously titled, DFL Leadership CLEARLY to Blame for the Poor Legislative Session.

3. Under Speaker Margaret Kelliher’s leadership, the House collected $181,120 in out-of-session, tax-free per diem. Under DFL Leader Larry Pogemiller’s leadership, senators collected $143,500 in out-of-session, tax-free per diem.

How convenient it is to try connect the names of the two DFL leaders in the legislature to per diem payments. It's not like any Republican members of the legislature took per diem payments, right? Certainly, the fiscally responsible likes of Steve Gottwalt gave back his 2008 per diem which amounted to $6689, right? One wonders how Mr. Gottwalt took in nearly $1200 more than Larry Haws in 2008. His must have been "legitimate" uses of per diem as opposed to those "illegitimate" uses made by the DFL.

2. Because the Legislature refused to trim more from their stamp allowance from 5,500 stamps per legislator per year to 3,500 per legislator per year, Minnesota’s taxpayers won’t save $350,000 for this and next year.

Really? The best that the Republican leadership could come up with in cutting the budget was a stamp allowance cut? Again, rather than play politics over a VOLUNTARY allowance, it would have been nice of the Republicans to unilaterally give up their stamp allowance. Did that happen? I suspect not.

1. While it’s technically true that the DFL-dominated Legislature sent Gov. Tim Pawlenty a balanced budget, it’s only because the DFL reconvened the conference committee on taxes at 10:30 on the last night. During that meeting, the DFL did a total rewrite, which was debated less than 15 minutes in the House and Senate combined.
Well here is some interesting spin. Given that this last minute tax bill was the SECOND to be sent to Governor Pawlenty, it appears as though Gary does not want to admit that "technically" the DFL-dominated Legislature balanced the budget TWICE!

Gross was coupled with the partisanship over people representative, Steve Gottwalt. The same Gottwalt who spent the remaining hours of the legislative session twittering about how this was all the fault of the DFL majorities. The crux of the letter being, it is all their fault so please do not blame us. Apparently, when a Republican denies all responsibility and blames the DFL it is called "accountability" but when the DFL returns charges of "accountability" it is little more than blame. At some point it would be nice to hear someone say that they share blame in this whole process. Perhaps if Mr. Gottwalt spent less time twittering on the House floor about how much this whole thing is the fault of the DFL to really work with them we might all appreciate the results.

No reform, misplaced priorities and tax increases. Even now, there is time to work out other solutions, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s invitation to the Democrats is open, as it was from the start of the session.

If the Democrats could interrupt their Tour of Blame long enough to really work with the governor, we might all appreciate the results. If they cannot or will not, rest assured, Pawlenty will balance the budget without more state spending and tax increases.

Again, let's be clear that the Governor offered what was essentially an ultimatum. If you don't do things my way then I will go it alone. Taxes will surely rise but rather than a shared sacrifice at all levels of the economic spectrum, the middle and lower income brackets will see a rise in their share of the tax bill through local property taxes.

The third letter, in this battle of the blame, was submitted by Senator Tarryl Clark. While I tend to agree with her assessment of unallotment, I do wish that she or someone on my side of the aisle or any side of the aisle would admit that there is a certain level of failure on all sides. With all due respect to Senator Clark, as soon as the Governor made this unilateral move to employ unallotment I would have camped outside his office and negotiated with him 24 hours a day for the remaining days. I don't imagine it would have worked given that he appeared unwilling to budge but it would have given that DFL far more authority to claim that they tried and that it was clearly the intransigence of this Governor that caused the breakdown.

In the budget-setting toolbox, unallotment is the sledgehammer. It just pounds dents in one part of the state’s budget. It does not give a governor the ability to enact policy or to make changes that might result in increased quality, efficiency or service to taxpayers. Using unallotment as a main budget setting tool is a bad idea, and little more than bad results can be expected.

The state’s budget desperately needs an overhaul, but the mechanic who took over the job is flailing a hammer. That will not bode well for Minnesota’s taxpayers.

Beyond the blame game, this legislative session is indicitive of what happens when one side decides that they will not compromise with the other. As I have always said, I am an unabashed liberal but also a firm pragmatist who believes that compromise is the key to good governance and creating a system in which the government can be a force for good for all people.


2 responses to "It's YOUR Fault! NO, It's YOUR Fault!"

  1. Gary Gross On June 1, 2009 at 2:52 PM

    Eric, I highlighted Speaker Kelliher & Leader Pogemiller specifically because only committee chairs can call meetings and/or hearings.

    Furthermore, I wasn't complaining that per diem was collected. I was complaining that these meetings were held & nothing valuable got accomplished in terms of identifying things that could get reformed, things that are being funded that are wants, not needs, & because the hearings didn't produce a DFL budget plan.

    In other words, I would've been fine with the out-of-session hearings if they had produced something of value. I'm not happy knowing that the hearings were a waste of time.

    As for your snide little remark that "The best that the Republican leadership could come up with in cutting the budget was a stamp allowance cut?" is laughable. The GOP in both the House & Senate offered numerous amendments that would've saved Minnesota's taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Just because Tarryl & the Brothers Larry don't talk about them doesn't mean they don't exist.

    Finally, the Tax Bill that Gov. Pawlenty vetoed called for $920,000,000 in increased revenue. Considering the fact that there was a $2,700,000,000 deficit without the tax increase, shaving $920,000,000 off of a $2,700,000,000 deficit doesn't bring the budget into balance.

  2. Gary Gross On June 1, 2009 at 2:57 PM

    Eric, I agree that there is some blame to go around but I don't agree that Gov. Pawlenty refused to negotiate with the DFL. This Strib article clearly proves that he was willing to negotiate with the DFL. The DFL's response to Gov. Pawlenty's proposal? “It’s a compromise in word, but not in deed,” said House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm.