Thursday, June 23, 2011

A ROSE IS A ROSE…

As we head into the final days before a state government shutdown, there will be increased proposals for settlement and more speculation on what will likely transpire.  The June 22nd Star Tribune contained an interesting editorial essentially suggesting that the healthcare provider tax be increased and that this increase be regarded as a surcharge and not labeled a tax increase thereby saving face for legislative Republicans.   Ultimately, this surcharge would produce some $600 million in new revenue which would come from state providers and the federal government.  The benefit would not only be the additional money but, more importantly, the preservation of MinnesotaCare and keeping some 85,000 to 140,000 people on the insured rolls.  Further, it would prevent thousands more from being disenrolled from Medicaid.  Overall, it is a huge step forward.

However, relative to the overall settlement it still leaves the Republicans and the Governor approximately $1 billion apart.

In terms of politics, the editorial is disturbing.   Allowing disagreements to be settled in a way that saves face is as American as baseball and the hotdog.  But saving face is considerably different than the perpetuation of a fundamental untruth.

It has to be said once and for all that a variety of taxes were increased under Governor Pawlenty and no amount of camouflage can mask that realty.  As a matter of fact his “borrowing” of some $400 million from the health care access fund has helped precipitate this crisis.

 In addition, the current Republican budget proposals contain some $400 million in property tax increases (http://www.scribd.com/doc/55548698/5-16-11-Compromise-Budget) on top of a variety of other cost increases.  It should also be noted that Republican legislators (Sen. Julie Rosen-Fairmont and Rep. Morrie Lanning-Moorhead) are the authors of legislation to provide public funding for the building of a Vikings stadium in Ramsey County.  This increase in the sales tax in Ramsey is a tax increase just as Pawlenty’s support for a Twins stadium was a tax increase in Hennepin County.

It should also be remembered that when oil company executives testified in Congress against the removal of public subsidies for oil, many Republican leaders declared that any withdrawal of subsidy funding would constitute a tax increase.  If that is to be the case, then what about the thousands of Minnesotans thrown out of healthcare and told to go on “vouchers” to pay for policies that are beyond the financial reach of low-income people?   Is that not a tax increase?  How about the student losing state support from institutions of higher learning and having to pay higher tuition?  And what about the rest of us who will pay higher healthcare premiums to accommodate the costs of the uninsured receiving emergency care?  One must also add to this list of growing tax increases the likely wage losses that would be suffered by public and private sector employees who are laid off as a result of the shutdown.

Frankly, this debate could use a lot more honesty and far less propaganda.  The bottom line is that both budget proposals contain revenue enhancements or tax increases.   It is not a question of labeling, it is a question of who pays and how

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

TRAPPED BY THE PAST

National and state media have been uniformly critical of Governor Pawlenty’s failure to confront Governor Romney on health care in last Monday’s debate.  Well, make room for a dissent.  I would contend that Pawlenty had no choice but to avoid any mention critical of Romney’s Massachusetts plan.

It appears from a recent blog by Jo Loveland (http://thesamerowdycrowd.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/the-beginning-of-the-end-for-pawlenty/) that on November 14, 2006, Pawlenty was effusive in his praise of Romney declaring he is an unbelievably bright and nimble and gifted public policy leader.   He went on to endorse mandated universal health care coverage by declaring:  In Minnesota, as to the access issues, I believe we should move toward universal coverage.  Everybody should be in a health plan of some sort.  How we get there becomes important.  I think a mandate by itself is potentially helpful, but it’s not the answer by itself.  Pawlenty seems to be suggesting that we should go beyond mandated coverage.   Loveland also wrote that this tape was likely making the rounds into Iowa and, hence, available to both Romney and Michele Bachmann.

This again has Pawlenty tripping over his past.  On Sunday, during his FOX appearance, he felt comfortable going against Romney and linking his health care plan to Obama’s.  I suspect he thought the 2006 comments would not come to the public’s attention.  After all, that position had been expressed more than four years ago and well before the national emergence of the Tea Party movement.  He also was probably not aware that Minnesota blogger, Andy Aplikowski, had a tape recording of his 2006 sentiments about Romney.

Had Pawlenty launched his attack on Romney’s healthcare plan, it is possible that Bachmann would have retaliated with an instant right that would have put Pawlenty on the canvas and, possibly, out for the full count.

Bachmann’s candidacy now prevents Pawlenty from being able to gloss over his Minnesota record and his numerous position changes including global warning, cap and trade, gay rights, deficits, light rail, and mandatory health care, etc.

By trying to be acceptable to all groups within this right-wing coalition, Pawlenty may be finding his tendency toward philosophical flexibility a serious, if not fatal, hindrance.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Can We Learn From The Past?


Over the past year, we have lost two of our finest business and community leaders:  Win Wallin and “Pinky” McNamara.  Their lives were similar in that they rose from modest circumstances, were enormously successful in business, and gave generously to create opportunities for others.  They dearly loved Minnesota and fully embraced the University of Minnesota.

Perhaps as we look at the current budget impasse, we can learn from them.  They knew how to put together a deal and make everyone feel good about it.  This was due to their ability to see opportunity when others could only see failure and to turn disadvantage into success.  Why not apply this attitude toward our state budget.

Since Wallin and McNamara understood the value of opening doors for the young, it may be well for the ultimate budget to do the same.  This vision covers wider concerns from education to creating an innovative growth-oriented economy.

Why not broaden the current debate from taxes (both party budgets call for sizeable tax increases but disagree on who pays) and focus instead on growing our economy and maximizing opportunities for the young.

Imagine bringing together community, academic, and business leaders in the mold of Wallin and McNamara and working towards an agreement that represents opportunity rather than political advantage?

After all, it was this focus that gave us these two remarkable men.