Lawmakers: High Stakes for Minneapolis in Budget Showdown
The three DFLers urged Minneapolitans to get involved in the budget debate.
Three South Minneapolis DFL lawmakers counseled a crowd of more than 50 on issues around the impending state shutdown as nearby kitchen workers prepped the day's meals Friday.
The monthly meeting, organized by Minneapolis City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, brought together Rep. Frank Hornstein, Rep. Jeff Hayden and Sen. Scott Dibble at Café Levain on 48th Street and Chicago Avenue.
There was supposed to be another guest, but House Minority Leader Paul Thissen was called into negotiations with Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative Republicans, who met at 8 a.m. to try to hammer out a compromise before the state shuts down on July 1.
The DFL lawmakers criticized the Republican proposals, and said Minneapolis would be hurt worse by the Republican-backed budget than a state government shutdown.
Minneapolis Targeted This Session
Glidden is the chair of Minneapolis City Council Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, which means she spends a lot of time at the State Capitol trying to represent the city's legislative interests.
"This has been a year where it is incredibly unpopular, to put it lightly, to be from Minneapolis," Glidden said, adding that Duluth and St. Paul also earned the ire of Republican lawmakers. "These three cities, which house a great portion of our [state] population, which house a great portion of our lowest income population and communities of color, have been targeted in some of the worst and most political ways."
To solve the more than $5 billion state budget deficit, Republican lawmakers are pushing a plan that involves $109 million in general fund cuts to Metro Transit, the elimination of integration aid that helps support urban schools and disproportionate cuts to Local Government Aid for these three large cities. That's on top of cuts to other state-provided social services in the Republican position that will have impacts state-wide.
Gov. Mark Dayton's current position taxes the state's richest two percent to help pay down a little less than one-third of the state's current budget deficit. Republicans are asking for an all-cuts budget. Democrats say the governor has already cut his revenue demand in half, and that Republicans, many of whom are freshman swept into office in last year's election, need to make compromises too.
Dibble said it isn't simply a "soak the rich" sort of proposition. "It’s responsive to what economists tell us," he said, pointing out that the state's very rich pay a smaller proportion of their income in taxes than the most of the rest of the state, which has been verified in state tax incidence studies.
State Shutdown Looms July 1
"We are in uncharted waters," Hornstein said. "I‘ve been around politics in the state for a long time, I’ve never seen anything like this—we’re talking about, a week from today, wholesale shutdown of state government."
Hennepin County released figures yesterday that show a shutdown would threaten dozens of state-funded services, including housing subsidies being used by victims of the North Minneapolis tornado.
"The governor is absolutely right when he’s facing so much pressure to cave when he says, 'We could do this, but the consequences of the Republican budget are worse than even a shutdown, and it’s worse because it’s long-term, and it’s permanent and it’s structural,'" said Hornstein.
Some in the crowd called for activism—progressive organizations are organizing protests against the cuts. Others, like Art Serotoff, called for serious consideration and study by the lawmakers on the impact of the shutdown and all-cuts budget. Others considered different approaches to the problems involved.
"We hear elected officials talk about the dilemma we’re in, which is pretty challenging, and how bad the Republicans are," said Debbie Evans, a Linden Hills resident. "But at a certain point we need to look at what we can do, as opposed to how bad the other guy is."
The DFLers said they're optimistic that their hoped-for resolution will win out if people get involved in the political process.
"This feels like turbulence. The problem with turbulence is your stomach gets in a knot, you where you’re going but don’t know when you’ll get there," Hayden told the crowd. "Hold on to your seats—I think we’re going to make it."