Republican plan is unpopular

Published 10:06 am Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sticking with their unpopular budget plan and refusing to negotiate a bipartisan solution to Minnesota’s $5 billion deficit, Republican lawmakers are close to forcing a government shutdown.

Their line in the sand as we head into July could be the closest the rest of us gets to any Minnesota beach this summer — and would result in the worst economic situation for every mom-and-pop business that relies upon our 10,000 lakes to stay afloat.

Without a budget deal before the end of the month, nonessential government services will shut down. That includes personnel at state parks and within the offices of Explore Minnesota, the folks who promote our state as a major U.S. tourist destination.

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Their numbers are few but their work defines big business: More than 9 million people visit Minnesota’s state parks annually, and tourism, at last count, brings in more than $11 billion a year.

In Minnesota’s southern economic region, that translates into $1.3 billion annually and accounts for 33,000 jobs.

Minnesota is a four-season tourism state, but summer months account for the greatest single-season tally in local revenue. Given the sluggish national economy and high gas prices, national experts projected early this year that Minnesota would have a banner summer — exceeding previous years — as an affordable tourism spot.

That was before the budget stalemate.

Only 27 percent of state residents side with Republicans, who insist that Minnesota erase Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s $5 billion deficit through spending cuts alone. The vast majority, some 63 percent, side with Gov. Mark Dayton, who proposed nominal revenue gains, mixed with savings, to balance the state’s budget. His plan asks that those with top 2 percent income earnings pay marginally higher taxes to lessen the load on middle-class workers and families.

With majorities in the both the House and the Senate, Republicans can hold up budget talks for any reason they see fit — and the sad fact is politics appear to be more important than the economic well-being of our state.

Cynthia Moothart

policy director

League of Rural Voters