The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 18, 2013

Sky didn't fall in state budget deal

By Mary Lynn Scott

---- — A recent letter by Fred Slocum, professor of political science at Minnesota State University, paints a typical “sky is falling” approach. The problem with Slocum’s letter and politics in general is that the status quo of government benefits no one. Not taxpayers, not government, not the people government serves.

The Legislature of 2011-12 had Republican majorities in both the House and Senate and they did what they needed to do — balance a budget and commit to getting it done on time. While Slocum is correct to point out that the governor is not forced to sign that legislation — there are also political consequences for not doing so. That year the governor decided that it was worth shutting down government because he did not get his way with tax increases and more spending.

Let’s keep in mind the economy was in the tank, government was still growing insatiably and according to Slocum, who is part of that government expense, we should have just kept spending.

This is the trap that the big government, tax and spend, side of the equation have put you the taxpayer, businesses and families in — you either agree with us or the poor, needy, children and disabled are all going to suffer. That’s nonsense. It comes down to priorities, innovation and doing something different because government cannot get their own checkbook in order.

As for the tax increases only affecting the rich, if you buy chocolate chips for your cookies or go to a tanning booth or pay someone to repair your machinery (these new sales taxes are just a few examples), you must be very rich.

Slocum states that budget changes are cuts. Let’s assume for a second that the state budgets like you do. You earn $70,000 this year and your budget is $70,000 and you know you are not getting a raise. Your budget next year is still $70,000. Under Slocum’s thoughts next year’s budget should automatically grow and you should just pull money out of thin air to meet those new budget obligations.

So since taxpayers are expected to do their part — dig down deep, what should be expected of government at that time? A quick look at the Minnesota Management and Budget Salary for Slocum in year 2011 shows a salary of $70,195. In 2012 his salary was $73,227— a 4.3 percent salary increase. (www.beta.mmb.state.mn.us/salary-data). So in light of a salary freeze, hiring freeze, and cost control measures, those that your tax dollars are supporting are asking more from you so the “sky is falling” rhetoric doesn’t materialize.

The General Assistance money Slocum said was eliminated was not — it was converted to block grants to counties. Poor children were not booted off health care, and as shown, higher education was not doing its part to help government live within its means.

It’s time for government to realize we cannot continue programs on auto-pilot. It’s time to reexamine priorities and spending and come up with new ideas, innovation and balancing the state’s checkbook just like you and I do. Slocum can blame whoever he wants for a shutdown but the Legislature did its constitutionally mandated job — the governor, through his veto and being disengaged, shut down government, all while the letter writer got a raise and expected you and me to pay for it.

Mary Lynn Scott is a homemaker and co-founder of the local Friends of Freedom group. She lives in Le Sueur.