In Minnesota, our Democratic governor (Mark Dayton) and Republican legislature are engaged in an epic budget battle. Raising income taxes is Dayton’s old-time religion, and he’s giving it to us good. When the spirit seizes him, especially if the medications he takes to treat his chronic mental problems aren’t adjusted quite right, he will even promote tax increases while talking in tongues.
In proselytizing that old-time religion Dayton has the choral support of the Minnesota media. It’s almost funny. We are suffocating in propaganda. Every day the media feature stories of the hardship and unfairness that are to result from a government shutdown, coming soon to a state office near you. As I mentioned yesterday in “Minnesota cage match,” it all reminds me of the vulgar Fugs’ song “Wide, Wide River” from the waning days of the Johnson administration.
Today brings us Star Tribune political reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger’s contribution to that wide, wide river. Stassen-Berger reports that state legislators and their staff will continue to get paid in the event of a government shutdown. (Cash to pay staff, however, might run out after a month.)
Looking for someone to offer a pungent comment at the top of her story, Stassen-Berger turns to — who else? — “a union leader,” the head of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. According to Stassen-Berger, the union leader “is bracing for the uncertainty of a protracted, wide-reaching government shutdown.” I wonder how you do that. It sounds incredibly arduous.
Unfortunately, Stassen-Berger has not arrived to let us know that. Rather, Stassen-Berger wants to let us know that the union man “was outraged Friday that legislators would pay themselves and their staff when so many state workers may be laid off.”
Now here’s the deal. In the event of state shutdown, employees who are laid off won’t work. They therefore won’t be paid. The legislature, however, will have to work to resolve the budget stalemate. They should therefore get paid if they can be paid lawfully. Stassen-Berger quotes House Majority Leader Matt Dean: “We can’t get the government going again unless we pass bills.”
Does the union man think that those who must work during a government shutdown should not get paid? I infer from Stassen-Berger’s story that he does, at least if they are Republican legislators, but Stassen-Berger doesn’t elaborate on the union man’s views. Dose the union man’s comment apply to Democratic legislators as well? To the governor and his staff? Stassen-Berger doesn’t ask, and the union man doesn’t answer.
The point of Stassen-Berger’s story is not, shall we say, highly intelligent, unless the point is purely political. Moreover, she displays conveniently limited curiosity regarding the union view that she publicizes in the story. Why would that be? I think that Stassen-Berger has a dog in this fight.
UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch has issued a statement announcing that, in the event Dayton forces a state government shutdown, she will not taker her salary or per diem:
After Republicans won control of the Minnesota Senate, we recognized that tough decisions would be needed to balance the state’s budget. We started with our own legislative compensation and made the first reductions in over 24 years. Republicans presented Governor Dayton with a complete balanced budget compromise, which he vetoed.
The decision to force a state government shutdown is the responsibility of Governor Dayton and as a candidate Governor Dayton said he wouldn’t shut down state government to raise taxes. I remain committed to the position that a state government shutdown is not necessary and will continue to work tirelessly to prevent it.
Should Governor Dayton ultimately decide to shutdown state government to raise taxes on Minnesotans, rather than accept the multiple budget compromise offers presented to him by Republicans, I will not take my legislative salary or per diem.
Is it too much to hope that some enterprising reporter will now figure out that Dayton actually wants the shutdown?