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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

DFLers on the Hot Seat on Education Vote

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 04/04/05 11:21

By Jay H. Steele

Kudos to Star Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant for her Sunday column highlighting the defection of the 6 DFL legislators who crossed the line and voted with the Republicans against the bi-partisan education amendment. She correctly pointed what it means to support the Republican plan -- money to support education is going to come out of support for MinnesotaCare, and 27,000 more families are going to lose health care. A few key paragraphs from her post:

Here's a stab at describing the unfolding drama: Everybody wants to spend more on education. Pawlenty and most (but, significantly, not quite all) Republicans want to pay for that increase with revenue from three sources: new casinos, higher property taxes, and a squeeze on health care that includes denying MinnesotaCare coverage to single, childless adults.

That's 27,000 people, for whom no other health insurance is available or affordable. They pay modest premiums for their coverage, which is also funded by a 2 percent "provider tax" on health care services, shown to be more than justified by the savings in reduced charity care the program produces.

For Barnick, Mewhorter and thousands of other enrollees with chronic medical conditions, losing MinnesotaCare would mean quitting their jobs, going on welfare, and getting health care called Medicaid. For that, state and federal taxpayers would pay.

For thousands more who need medical care sporadically, the MinnesotaCare alternative is "ER Care," as in, run to the emergency room for every condition that needs professional attention. ER Care is already in force for the estimated 36,000 people who lost MinnesotaCare after the 2003 Legislature's cuts, said Sue Stout of the Minnesota Hospital Association. Uncompensated care at Minnesota hospitals was up 30 percent last year as a result.

The cost of that care doesn't magically disappear from hospital balance sheets. It's passed along to everybody who has health insurance.

So the GOP plan for increasing education funding is You Pay More, through higher health costs, higher property taxes, and the money you or your neighbors leave at a new casino.

The DFL plan is You Pay More, through an increase in some yet-to-be-specified state tax -- income, sales, sin or otherwise.

Or so it appeared, until last Tuesday. That's when the initial move by the House DFL caucus and two brave moderate Republicans, Dan Dorman and Ron Erhardt, to aim toward paying for more education funding with a state tax increase was fouled up by the cold-footed votes of six DFLers. On a crucial amendment, they strayed to the Republican side. That scuttled the first promising attempt in years at building a bipartisan, moderate-middle, budget-balancing coalition.

Those six deserve to be named: Dan Larson and Ann Lenczewski of Bloomington; Larry Hosch of St. Joseph, Joe Opatz of St. Cloud, Bev Scalze of Little Canada, and Denise Dittrich of Champlin. I'd bet that every one of them campaigned last fall on a promise to increase education funding.

I wish they too had been at Christ Lutheran on Wednesday night. I wish they had heard how the lives of some of this state's least fortunate citizens will be ruined if a state budget that cuts them out of MinnesotaCare becomes law. Then I would have turned to the straying six and asked, Is this how you intended for Minnesota to pay for the education increase you promised?

I hope these legislators are getting an earful from their progressive constituents. If you live in their districts please voice your displeasure.
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Troops in the Lege!

Posted: 04/01/05 12:21, Edited: 04/01/05 13:03

by Glen Marshall

I have the deepest respect for the people that protect our country. I admire their ability to put their own best interests behind them in favor of defending often ungrateful citizens. Soldiers' willingness to take an order and go with it, regardless of the personal harm that may come to them, is the stuff of true heroism.

Now, there are a couple of former soldiers that represent me in a couple of different legislative bodies. Actually, I'm sure that there are many, but there are two in particular that feel the need to crow about it...a lot:

John Kline, US Representative from Minnesota, CD2
Lynn Wardlow, State Representative of Minnesota, District 38B

To listen to these two guys, the personna of the soldier is so much a part of their identity that they can't shake it. The profession of the soldier is an honorable one of service; however, you better leave your whole idea of "chain of command" at the door when you step into the lege.

I watched in astonishment as Lynn Wardlow defended his failure to defend a potential fix for Minnesota's schools with the excuse: well, the Governor would probably have vetoed it anyway.

What? WHAT? I'm sorry, Mr. Wardlow... this ain't the Marines anymore. You don't wait for your orders to determine what battle is winnable or which one is important. You decide what your constituents want, you decide upon the honest, moral and ethical stance and you make the decision on your own.

You aren't a soldier anymore, and your party is not the brass. You are a failure as a representative if you think that anywhere NEAR the majority of the people of Eagan, Minnesota want you to drop the ball and not make a ruckus about the gutting of our schools. A true hero would have voted to protect schools regardless of his chances of victory. The nobility of championing even the most lost of causes, if it be a noble cause, is a compelling thing to a voter.

And don't you slink away anywhere, John "The Football" Kline. In order to support your party leadership, you abandoned your party's central ideal: small government. You voted to introduce the Federal Government into a family's tragedy. Time to stop following orders and to start representing your constituents.

Now, Mark Dayton voted with you on this issue. But there's an important difference. He knew that he would be savaged by his own party for doing so. I intensely disagree with him on this vote. But do you know what? I can be pretty sure that his vote was a vote of conscience. I also believe that I could discuss the issue with him and then walk away either understanding his point of view or even possibly convincing him to change his view. Either way, I believe that he would discuss the issue honestly.

So, Mr. Kline and Mr. Wardlow, it's time for you to be legislators, not soldiers for your party. Your constituents are your commanding officers. You may disagree with them and you may even vote against their wishes, but you better damn well have a better reason than wanting to be on the winning side or taking marching orders from your party.
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Conservative Principles?

Category: US Politics
Posted: 03/29/05 11:56, Edited: 04/01/05 09:44

by David Mindeman

Conservatives make a lot of hay touting "conservative principles". But how much of that meets the reality test.
Let's take a closer look:

1) Smaller Government: Bedrock principle, right? Do you see any evidence of it? Department of Education-- yep, still there. It even has expanded its intrusion into local control with the underfunded and convoluted "No Child Left Behind". How about less bureaucracy? Whoops.... wrong there too. 4 words say it all. Department of Homeland Security. What should have been the focus of our homeland defense has turned into a color coded bureaucratic nightmare. And then for good measure, we added an intelligence czar with "undefined" authority. Boy, they really stuck to principles there.

2) Reducing Taxes. For all the pats on the back they have done with this, do you really see any difference in your paycheck? Democrats harp about only the wealthy seeing the reductions and it is absolutely true. Regular citizens have seen minor tax relief wiped out by huge property tax increases, more levies for schools, and higher fees on everything else. Republican tax reduction? Hold onto your wallet.

3) Fiscal Discipline. Ok, don't laugh. I know its hard to believe this even exists in the 'Conservative' lexicon anymore. Have you seen any Republican budget that didn't have a deficit? State budgets have to scrape and claw to balance every year; and on the Federal side, well, let's just say your kids better get some high paying jobs. We have spent half of their projected future revenues already. And that doesn't even account for the Social Security "fix".. don't get me started.

4) Pro-Life. Ah, the gold standard of conservative principles. Every two years, we hear the rhetoric. The protection of a "culture of life". We have heard the pomposity, over and over and over. But don't those pro-life "minions" ever wonder why this issue never goes away? For all the talk, has anything really changed? Roe v Wade is still here (Thank God!) Bills never get out of committee. And those that do get passed have such convoluted language that they get thrown out on Consitutional grounds. I wonder if all those principled pro-lifers out there who obediently go to the polls every cycle about the same issue, over and over.... well, I wonder if they might start to feel a little bit...used?

Yes, those principles are bedrock aren't they? Someday, I would hope that people will compare the reality of what is said and what is actually accomplished. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that conservatives are suffering from a principle "shortage".
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