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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Credit? The GOP Legislators Wants Credit?

Category: Economy
Posted: 02/28/13 13:53

by Dave Mindeman

There is some good news in the economic forecast....we have less of a deficit....

The latest projection, released Thursday, shows the state?s shortfall has shrunk by nearly $500 million for the state?s 2014-2015 budget cycle. That brings the total that Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL Legislature must fill to $627 million, down from the earlier estimate of $1.1 billion.

This will allow for more discussion on changes to Dayton's budget plan, but the legislature should still stay on track. It is still a deficit and the plan is to fix the idea of structural deficits.

Republican legislators are quick to take credit....

Republicans have credited the ?pro-growth? policies their legislative majorities enacted over the last budget cycle with jump-starting the state?s economy.

But I question the "pro-growth" aspect of it. The forecast improvement comes from better than expected collections on income, sales, and corporate taxes. Exactly what did the Republican legislature do that was responsible for better collections?

#1 - They did not change anything about tax rates. No changes in income, sales, or corporate taxes. They did try to reduce corporate rates, but I would assume that would have reduced the improvement.

#2 - Since economic activity increased, what exactly did the GOP legislature do that would have helped with that. Maybe they could say some of their minor regulatory changes helped on the margins....although Dayton could make the same claim with administrative directives.

#3 - Maybe, you could make a case for the "hidden" money that helped with balancing revenue in a gimmicky, off the books, way. Let's take the school shifts. We still owed $1.1 billion as the session began....and the tobacco bonding made up another $640 billion in revenue. Those gimmicks helped balanced the books, but left us with obligations. The end of the year surplus of $290 million goes directly to the school shift. That could have furthur decreased the deficit by that amount if not for the money we owed. What we are left with is an IOU of $801 million. And then there is the tobacco bonding which works this way:

$640 million of the $757 million bond sale will go to fix the state's budget deficit. The remaining $117 million will go into a special account to cover the cost of issuing the bonds and creating a reserve to pay back bondholders. The bonds are backed by future payments from the state's 1998 settlement with tobacco companies. The state will eventually pay bondholders $1.2 billion over the life of the 20 year bonds.

So, if our GOP legislators are going to take credit for the budget as it stands now, then they need to take credit for all of it....

Even with the economic growth that has improved the forecast,

a) we still have deficit of $627 million.

b) School shift took any surplus and we still owe $810 million

c) We have tobacco bonding debt of $1.2 billion taken from future payments.

So even with the much improved forecast, the last budget cycle left us with over $2.6 billion in obligations.

$2.6 billion debt

That is what we can thank the last GOP legislature for.....
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Sequestration Nation

Category: Economy
Posted: 02/28/13 11:41

by Alan Anderson

It's here. Tomorrow is Friday, March 1st, and no resolution to the impending budget cuts is in sight. While accusations about the severity of the cuts and their real impact on the economy abound, the reality is we have a dysfunctional government. Nobody in their right mind runs a $3.5 trillion dollar business by lurching from one crisis to another, working to the last minute to try to avoid some new disaster.

The American public is disgusted at the behavior of our elected leaders. While each party blames the other, the fact that Republicans have held more than 300 filibusters, pledged to make Mr. Obama a one term president as their primary agenda, voted against providing aid to Sandy victims, tried to block the recent appointments of Secretaries of Defense and Treasury, and have held firm to their commitment to protect the wealthiest Americans from tax hikes, makes it clear that they bear a greater burden of being called intransigent than their Democratic counterparts.

And the rule of democracy is in question. Most people assume in a democracy that majority rules. When a majority of voters cast their ballots for a particular candidate and position of that candidate, the entire population should respect that decision. In the last election President Obama, the only national candidate in the election process, received the majority of votes. Therefore, his positions should have a bit more sway and influence because he speaks for the majority of the electorate. And his position was clear....resolve the sequestration dilemma with both revenue increases and spending cuts. So, his position should have added weight.

In baseball, the tie goes to the runner. In national politics, on a close call, the tie should go to the President. Let's act maturely and move on.....the low approval rating by Congress should be sufficient evidence that Congress is losing the battle of being perceived as competent and representative of the people. Let's move the country forward. Let's stop being a sequestration nation.

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Gay Marriage Bill: A Simple Righting of a Wrong

Category: Gay Rights
Posted: 02/27/13 19:12

by Dave Mindeman

The gay marriage bill is finally out and the debate has already begun. It is interesting that former GOP State Auditor Pat Anderson has thrown her support behind the bill and with it a sense that some of the GOP's Liberty caucus are on board as well. (Another GOP schism...)

But there is vocal opposition as well. I was particularly interested in the take aways from Sen. Dan Hall (Burnsville)....who is also a pastor....and Rep. Glen Gruenhagen

First from Hall.....

The bill would change Minnesota's current statutory definition of marriage from "a civil contract between a man and a woman" to "between two people." The bill would exempt churches from being forced to perform same-sex weddings.

But Sen. Dan Hall..... said he worried that exemption could be lifted in future legislative sessions. "I will personally go to jail before I ever perform a marriage for a homosexual," Hall said. Republicans said they were also worried that business owners who cater to weddings could face consequences if they refuse on moral grounds to do business with gay couples.

I think it can be safely said that Sen. Hall will not be seeing any jail time in regards to gay marriages. First of all, who would want a pastor with those beliefs anyway, and secondly, the bill expressly protects religious preferences.

As for business owners getting into trouble....I doubt they will get into trouble with the law, but boy, they are sure going to miss out on the major wedding boom that would almost certainly follow passage of this legislation....their penalty would be purely economic.

Then we get Glen Grunhagen....

"There is no gay gene. OK?" said Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe. "So the concept that you're born that way and it's an immutable characteristic is an unscientific lie."

OK. He's right. There is no "gay" gene, but that is not the end of the science discussion.....

Researchers announced today (12/11/12) that homosexuality isn?t strictly genetic. But before the homophobes break out their party hats to celebrate this as proof of same-sex attraction being ?unnatural,? note that the study in the Quarterly Review of Biology argues that homosexuality is passed from parent to child.

The key here is epi-marks, which control how genes are expressed, and they just might explain the evolutionary stumper of why, if homosexuality is hereditary, it hasn?t been eliminated from the gene pool.

As a press release explains in almost comprehensible terms, the study finds ?sex-specific epi-marks, which normally do not pass between generations and are thus ?erased,? can lead to homosexuality when they escape erasure and are transmitted from father to daughter or mother to son.?

U.S. News translates that: ?A lesbian will almost always get the trait from her father, while a gay man will get the trait from his mother.?

This has not been scientifically proven...as yet...but it does explain a lot of the seemingly contradictory evidence in tracking a genetic theory in this regard. These epi-marks are broken down this way....

.....epi-marks have proliferated because they are evolutionarily advantageous: They ?protect fathers and mothers from excess or underexposure to poison ,? but they may also cause homosexuality in opposite-sex offspring. It remains to be seen how this might explain sexuality?s many fluid, complex and category-destroying expressions.

Now we can get hung up on science and religious explanations forever. What this really boils down to is a matter of discrimination.

This bill eliminates a discriminatory wrong and that, in the end, is all that really matters.
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