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Last week I wrote up a "Your Turn" to the St. Cloud Times which was published today in response to a previously published "Your Turn" by local conservative, Gary Gross. Here it is in its entirety:

In what may need to be a regular column titled “Gross Inaccuracies” in this or another publication, my favorite conservative foil and the mouthpiece of the Republican Party in St. Cloud, Gary Gross, provided a rather fact-challenged Your Turn on the recent legislative session. (“DFL leadership clearly to blame for the poor legislative session,” May 31.)

For the sake of rebuttal let us use his handy dandy format:

1. Given that Gross would like to use stamp allowances to balance a $6.4 billion deficit, I would direct his attention to Senate Resolution 66 authored by Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller. The resolution cut the maximum stamp allowance for senators in half for the next two years. It passed and is expected to save about $50,000 in the next two years. Gross touted a figure of $350,000 yet the entire Senate stamp budget for the previous two years was $125,000.

2. The Per Diem Boogeyman rears its ugly head in the Gross reinterpretation of the data without so much as a mention of the fact that legislators are free to forego these payments. One might assume from his writing that it is only the DFL who takes these payments. If the Republican Party was so committed to this line of budget balancing, one wonders why they didn’t unilaterally give back their portion.

In reality, 24 percent of DFL senators (including Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark) and 19 percent of Republican senators voluntarily reduce their per diem payments.

3. At the start of session the Senate took the following steps to cut $1.5 million from their budget: banned out of state travel, held open 24 positions, ended job promotions and froze wages. At the end of session the Senate passed and the governor signed a bill that includes additional cuts for the next two years.

Minnesota did not have a $2.2 billion surplus. It was an illusion created by the governor by counting one-time money as ongoing and by ignoring inflation. After 16 months we continue to play these budgetary games rather than fix the structural imbalance of our state budget.

This governor realizes that to cut our way out of this problem is a road he cannot travel without serious political consequences, so watch as he shifts as much of the problems into the future as he can.

I would have much preferred more aggressive negotiations from both sides of the aisle and have expressed as much in different venues but what is clear is that Gross and his Republican colleagues refuse to acknowledge that after the first veto of a tax bill that was much lower than originally proposed this governor decided to take his ball and go home.

Thus, a second tax bill was produced that accepted the governor’s shifts in education funding as a show of compromise and in hopes it would bring some returned compromise from the governor. Obviously, that did not happen.

Rather than deride the listening sessions held by legislators across the state, Gross and his Republican friends in state government would have done well to actually listen, as they would have heard of the shared sacrifice that Minnesotans were willing to make to finally fix our state budget.

Instead, the sacrifice will be shouldered by the middle and lower income brackets as state obligations are pushed off to property taxpayers and the next generation.

Gross wants to pin this entire problem on the DFL but unfortunately the facts simply do not bear that out. To be clear, it also does not mean the entire problem is one of the Governor or the Republicans in general. This is a systemic revenue problem and we can either raise those revenues through taxation, borrow our way out the problem which is the current path of this Governor, or cut our way out of this problem which neither side is willing to do. At this point, the DFL has recognized the problem while the Governor and his party have decided to hide the problem with continued structural deficits.