Monday, February 02, 2009

In lieu of doing their jobs, or, looking for another Indian 

In Michael Deaver's memoir of Ronald Reagan, Reagan is reported to have told a yarn several times about finding a man at the Bureau of Indian Affairs crying. Reagan asked what was wrong and he replied "My Indian died, that's what's wrong. What the hell am I supposed to do now?"

On the second hour of the Final Word on Saturday, I talked about the DFL's response to Governor Pawlenty's budget proposal from last week. The budget deficit has been known since November, and back then Sen. Larry Pogemiller had some strong words on what they would do:
DFL Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller said finance committees will start from scratch and examine every nook and cranny of current spending. Pogemiller said state government will have to stop doing some things, and he already has a target in mind.
This Senate and House has paid itself over a quarter-million dollars in per diem money when the Legislature was not in session, most of which was in the last six months of 2008. Add to this mileage. Most of the money was spent in the last six months. The number of committees used by the Pogemiller-Kelliher-DFL legislature has grown dramatically. In return for that, and given the imperative of dealing with a budget deficit that is likely to grow from the current estimate of $4.8 billion, don't you think you'd get a budget proposal?

As HAL 9000 would say, "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

Or maybe we should let Senator Tarryl Clark explain:

The strategy is obvious: The DFL leadership is seeking pressure from tax consumers to force a different solution than the one that requires no tax increases. The law states that the House and Senate must develop budget targets (that's the Senate document for 2007-08; I haven't found the ones for 2009-10 yet.) (UPDATE: The Senate rules are still temporary, here. 30 days from the release of the last Finance update, which I now here is scheduled for March 2.)

But Sen. Clark went looking for new Indians. Our faculty union sends this admonition:
Legislators are planning to hold hearings on the budget around the state, and I will send you times and locations as soon as they are available. It is very important we have a big turnout of higher education constituencies at these hearings to offset the pressures from other constituencies, particularly the advocates of deeper tax cuts.
The House and Senate, who I remind you have spent a quarter million dollars on meetings outside of the Legislature, now set up websites to "solicit input", which is what I thought they were doing with those meetings last fall. Every taxpayer ought to check the data provided by Pat Kessler of WCCO and write their legislator the following letter:
Dear Senator Clark,
I note from Pat Kessler's Reality Check last month that you received $4128 [change to fit] of per diem payments in the interim period outside of the Legislature's normal duties. I note that the legislature has not developed a budget. As a taxpayer and constituent I make the following request: Please document the 43 days [you should change this to be the number above divided by $96 per day for senators, $77 per day for representatives] you received this money and the nature of the business you conducted that day. In particular, please note the days you spent working on closing the state budget deficit. Thank you.
Sign it, and even give them a SASE, since they appear to be short on stamps at the Legislature. If you do send one, please send a copy to me (comments at name of this blog without the www. part) and we'll read it on the air on The Final Word next week. We'll see if they actually worked on cutting spending, raising taxes, or finding new Indians.

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