It’s the not-so-magical Minnesota ‘Misery Tour’

Published 8:41 am Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This week the Minnesota “Misery Tour” will be making a stop in a town near you. The “Misery Tour” is just like any traveling road show, a well orchestrated event with a clear objective. The show has been in the works for weeks, the Senate and House DFL leadership carefully planning the locations and the venues. Putting out the word to the right people to ensure they have the correct sound bites at each location.

The “Misery Tour” is scheduled to make stops in at least 24 cities across Minnesota. To date, the list includes: Albert Lea, Alexandria, Bemidji, Bloomington, Brainerd, Burnsville, Coon Rapids, Duluth, Forest Lake, Little Falls, Mankato, Marshall, Minneapolis, Moorhead, Plymouth, Rochester, St. Cloud, St. Paul, Virginia, Willmar, Winona, White Bear Lake, Woodbury and Worthington.

What’s the purpose of the “Misery Tour”? It’s to let average Minnesotans across the state comment on Governor Pawlenty’s proposed budget. Does any one honestly think that after a mere three weeks since it was laid on the table, that an “average” Minnesotan has read, reviewed, or grasped what is in the Governor’s proposed 2010-2011 state budget? So let’s call it like it is….this is a staged show for the media so that DFL legislative leaders can have an endless parade of pre-selected folks whine about the horrible impact the Governor’s proposed budget will have on their schools, their cities, their government jobs, you fill in the blank. The room will be filled with people who either work for government or are benefiting from a government program, telling their tale of woe if they don’t get a pay increase or if their government program funding is reduced.

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Do legislators really need to go to 24 cities across the state and listen to a pre-screened set of whiners tell them what they already believe, “they don’t like Governor Pawlenty’s budget proposal.”

Why do we need the “Misery Tour” when most legislators have already scheduled their own local town hall meetings in their respective legislative districts all over the state with their own little dog and pony shows? Instead of the “Misery Tour,” maybe legislative leaders should stay in St. Paul and see if they can come up with their own budget solution.

When House Speaker Margaret Kelliher was asked why the House leadership had no concrete budget proposals of their own on the table, she responded that the Legislature did not have the resources and that it was “unrealistic to expect us to respond in just a few days.” Well, the Speaker might have more time and resources to devote toward a proposed budget if she wasn’t sponsoring the “Misery Tour.”

But as they say in the entertainment business the “show must go on” and if you are looking for some good entertainment this week stop in on the “Misery Tour” when it comes to a town near you, but don’t forget to sign up before you go, otherwise you won’t be able to speak. Remember only those who have a negative comment about the Governor’s budget will be allowed to speak or address the elected officials in attendance.

My suggested change for the “Misery Tour” road show that could actually turn these staged events into a real listening tour is this… “Only allow individuals, who aren’t government workers, or people who aren’t currently receiving a government check or individuals who aren’t receiving a direct government subsidy to speak.” This would allow our elected officials to hear from people who don’t have a vested interest or a lobbyist at the State Capitol. With this stipulation, “average Minnesotans” could let legislators know what impact a tax increase might have on their families and while Governor Pawlenty’s budget may not be perfect, it indeed might be preferable to a yet to be disclosed DFL budget solution. Without a biased audience, legislators might hear from Minnesotans who don’t want a hand-out, but only want government’s hand out of their pocket.

Phil Krinkie is a former Republican state representative from Lino Lakes and the president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. The eight-term lawmaker chaired the House Tax Committee and two other House panels.