Sometimes, a good state budget is worth fighting for
I\'ve been watching a book ricochet around the country.
Stuck in Frankfurt for five days after 9/11, I relied on an extremely helpful guidebook to fill time I had no plans for. With a trip for Spain looming, I needed an updated guidebook.
The good folks at Amazon.com assured me the book would arrive in the two weeks I had before I left. Twelve days before my departure, the book was shipped from a warehouse in the southern Kansas town of Coffeyville. It was doing well until it got to the Kansas City suburb of Lenexa - where it decided to board a truck to Albuquerque.
Who knows why? Perhaps someone at the whiz of the shipping biz thought my 55403 zip code resembles that of Albuquerque\'s 87123. Anyway, it\'s a two-day ride to Albuquerque, then a really long day back.
Then a strange thing happened; the whiz of the shipping biz appears to have surrendered, and my book sits back in K.C. for a couple of days. The whiz then merely rescheduled the delivery for five days later than the original date.
I have a theory for the surrender: someone in Kansas saw \"Minnesota\" on the label and took a cue from this year\'s Minnesota state Senate: he simply gave up.
In this year\'s budget negotiations, the state Senate executed a full and complete surrender; disintegration as complete as that of the Iraqi army; surrender as complete as the French anytime they\'ve had a war.
I understand why the Iraqi army fell apart; I even understand why the French surrendered. I don\'t understand why the Minnesota Senate surrendered - and certainly don\'t believe the explanation of Senate DFL majority leader John Hottinger that he did so to \"proceed with the process of keeping government open.\"
Hottinger had until June 30 to figure something out with Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Republicans. He should\'ve taken a lesson from the shipping whiz and used all the time available.
In the past, political negotiations at the Capitol have been a give and take. Final solutions would be somewhere between everyone\'s original proposals. We\'d get some of our best solutions from a series of compromises. At his surrender, Hottinger was pointing fingers. \"We will not embrace this budget,\" he said.
He forgets we only have a budget because the Senate votes for it. Finger-pointers masqueradin as victims don\'t get much respect.
Bullies don\'t get much respect, either. This time the bullies are the governor and the state House. The bullies threatened to shut down government at the end of the June 30 fiscal year. Nice way to run a government isn\'t it?
The disagreements weren\'t even that significant - just a few percentage points of the state budget. The DFL Senate majority wanted to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes, the governor and the House want to increase revenues through higher tuitions at state colleges and technical schools and collecting more money from anyone who walks into a courthouse or gets a parking or speeding ticket.
(Oh, by the way, they want property taxes to go up, but those increases have somebody else\'s fingerprints on them: city councils\' and county boards\'.)
These were hardly the differences preventing reasonable people from coming to an agreement - and hardly a situation requiring unilateral surrender.
On the last night of the regular session, the Senate looked like no one was in control. As one Senator attempted to explain a Higher Education Finance bill involving billions of dollars, others interrupted with various parliamentary maneuvers including attempts to adjourn. The Senate voted on the multi-billion-dollar bill before the first Senator finished her explanation.
Those claiming to be our political leaders need to quit being so entrenched in their positions. As political parties move farther to the right and left, they are becoming less inclined to consider any middle ground. That reluctance isn\'t doing anything to benefit our society as a whole. We should expect our leaders to negotiate, not surrender.
In the end, my book traveled 607 miles in 11 days - 55 miles a day - and arrived 24 hours before I left. Some things are worth waiting for. A budget is, too.