And the children of the Minnesota Republican Party were fruitful, increased abundantly and multiplied, and waxed exceedingly mighty. And the city of St. Paul was filled with them.
And it was scary as hell.
With six weeks left on the clock, the Republican majorities elected last November to the Minnesota Legislature are rapidly passing the budget bills that will dictate the state’s spending for the next two years. Or its lack of spending.
Despite a $1.6 billion surplus, Republicans are still slashing budgets all over the place to pay for tax cuts: $900 million, if Senate Republicans get their way, or the titanic $1.35 billion pushed by House Republicans.
The Minnesota they envision has little in common with the one we live in now. In this time of Passover, their proposals are beginning to sound a bit like the biblical chapter Exodus. If you recall, before the Israelites made it to freedom, things got a little hairy.
1. Water into blood: Ostensibly a spending bill, the House environment bill is littered with policies that will make it easier for businesses to pollute water. Most egregious is a change in how we handle Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), worst-case scenario assessments for air, water, and soil, which are currently overseen by state agencies. The GOP wants to allow businesses to submit their own environmental paperwork. If people living by a slaughterhouse notice a rust color and an iron aftertaste to their tap water, they should stop drinking it and consider using it as the base for a soup.
2. Lice: House Republicans’ public safety budget would push the state to reopen a 1,600-bed prison in Appleton. Minnesota would enter into a contract with CoreCivic, a publicly traded corporation notorious for valuing its stock price more than inmate healthcare. Watch for a horde of lice, already a common problem in the joint, to descend upon its inmates. To be fair to CoreCivic, its “customers” complain less after they’re killed in a riot sparked by shoddy conditions.
3. Mixture of wild animals: Most of the “savings” Senate Republicans found on health care come from bumping debt payments from May to June. (New fiscal year, new you, Minnesota!) But the bill does include a 7 percent reduction to the Minnesota Department of Health, the agency that handles restaurant inspections in St. Paul. Evidently, Senate Republicans want their lunch breaks to have an element of mystery. “Senator Benson, what kind of tacos did you get?” Answer: “I don’t know! But I just spit out what appears to be a dog collar.”
4. Boils: The House health budget is even stingier. Though costs rise each year, Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) is positively convinced the Department of Human Services (DHS) can find more than $370 million worth of “savings” through competitive bidding and by throwing ineligible people off programs. (Perversely, DHS is supposed to play cops-and-robbers while being underfunded to the tune of 300 employees.) If Dean’s cost-cutting dreams don’t come true? It’s up to DHS to figure out which vulnerable Minnesotans don’t get medical attention. When visiting a relative in the state’s care, remember to bring rubbing alcohol, a lighter, and a safety pin so you can lance any bedsore infections.
5. Thunderstorms of hail: At the last minute, Republicans remembered they’d meant to give another handout to the fossil fuel industry. Language tacked to an energy bill would allow Enbridge to build an oil pipeline “at its sole discretion” and along its “preferred route.” That hands-off treatment removes state regulators in nearly identical fashion to a bill that lets Xcel Energy do what it wants with a new natural gas plant. Our policy-makers are in a state of climate science denial. Perhaps they’ll be convinced when they look out their office windows to see a mile-wide microburst approaching the Capitol parking lot.
6. Darkness: The House tax plan cuts the so-called “estate” tax, assessed solely to the fortunes of deceased million- and billionaires. It also slashes the corporate industrial property tax, which costs businesses based on the value of land they own. Combined, just those two elements would subtract nearly $1 billion in tax revenue over the next four years. How do they account for the losses? They don’t. The losses compound, and Minnesota’s ability to carry out the basic functions of governing five million people gets less and less each year. Imagine how much we’ll save when we don’t even have to turn on the lights at the Capitol.
7. The loss of first-born children: Those tax cuts are just one example of how legislative Republicans absorbed corporate CEOs’ priorities as their own. Who’s losing out? The sick and the poor, sure. But the GOP agenda is also a huge fuck you to the educated young people they — and economists — say are making our state great. They’re cutting money for colleges and for preschool programs that help working people with kids. They’re penalizing cities (read: Minneapolis and St. Paul) for trying to ban plastic bags and not rounding up immigrants. They’re defunding city buses and declaring war on light rail. They’re siding with oil, insurance companies, and Big Ag.
If Gov. Mark Dayton can’t get Republicans to reconsider, the final plague visited upon Minnesota will be the sudden loss of all those young professionals with degrees, ideas, and expendable money, who will instead set off for the promised progressive lands of Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.
They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind... and they don’t even know you can convert whirlwind into electricity.
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