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A lump of coal
We've got a big deficit. $5.2 billion big. Not because we overspent, but because people are paying less taxes. The economy is in the shitter and we cut income taxes in the Ventura administration and now everything's f'ed up. Unlike the federal government, who can run a deficit, the state has to balance it by the end of May. After that, we're into special session. If we don't solve it by July 1, there's a government shut down. That means I don't get paid, state parks are closed and public defenders have to work for free.

We can't only tax our way out of this, raising taxes would only generate about $300 million (not to mention, the governor is absolutely against raising taxes). We can't *only* cut either (we did cut $125 million last year too). And the cost and size of government has been on the decline for a long time. It has to be a combination.

But where do you cut? There is a poll on the Strib website where you can vote where to cut: schools, health care, prisons, road projects, or local government aid. A majority chose prisons, followed by local government aid. Gee, we can't pay to incarcerate all those criminals, so lets just let them out of jail. And cut that silly LGA, I want to pay for policemen in my property taxes.

I shouldn't have, but I read comments on the Strib's deficit article. Pretty much just made me hate everyone.

People don't get it. Because the fact is, most, as in 64% of the budget is Education and Health Care. The total state budget = $34 billion. E-12 education gets 13 billion which is 38% of the budget (this is not including higher ed which gets a meager $3 billion). Health and Human services gets 9 billion which is 26% of the budget (they used to get 21 billion, that's a big cut we already made people). The rest is divvied up among ag & vets, environment, public safety, judiciary, transportation, economic development, state government and property tax aids. (Check my facts here.)

So are we going to make school districts more strapped for cash, ultimately forcing them to increase class sizes and to levy property taxes? Or are we going to take Grandma's health care away? When she is already on social security and doesn't have an extra penny to spend.

Then I listened to MPR with Lenczewski & Seifert. That was a little better. But people were calling in saying, "Protect education! I have a special needs child and I can't afford to pay for their schooling."

Everyone thinks government is too big and spends too much. Until something bad happens to them, like a flood or a fire or someone robs them or they lose their job and need unemployment. Then, they want the government to be there. But they want someone else to pay for it. Property taxes pays for schools, libraries, police and fire. Income taxes pay for health care and more schools and an environment where business is possible. Might be kind of hard to transport goods without keeping up our roads.

This session is going to be brutal. We did a lot of bad things in 2003 when we had a similar shortfall. We're going to end up doing a lot of bad things this year too. Like unallotting. That's where the governor has the power to take away money that hasn't been given out yet. Like the December Local Government Aid payment. Cities count on those monies to supplement their budget. That could mean lay-offs. Like my mom. Oy.

I could go on and on about how the government is an economic engine and how it is our best chance for good. But I'm a believer.

How the hell are we going to fix this? Maybe I'm too involved?

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