No one campaigned to shut down the state

Published 2:44 pm Friday, July 8, 2011

Column: Robin Brown, Guest Column

Minnesotans were anxious as a shutdown deadline loomed and then came. But the deadline marking the end of the fiscal year and the time certain for a government shutdown is not a surprise.

Neither was the deadline marking the end of the legislative session.

Robin Brown

Nor is it a surprise that the two political parties are philosophically and diametrically different.

We know that revenue is down and expenditures are up, and that means something has got to give. Yet we watch events seemingly out of our control as if we are watching a grand scale train wreck with our beloved Minnesota bracing to take the full impact of the crash.

Minnesotans brace themselves for major and immediate changes in their lives. Government shutdown, even with critical services protected, comes at a cost to all of us. Whether it is the 20,000 family, friends and neighbors across the state that wake up to find they no longer have a job, or the parent with a child in need of services for the deaf who finds the services are no longer available, or the couple who saved all year to spend some quality time with the kids only to realize that the state parks and museums are closed during their one designated week of vacation, or the small business that is unable to get a needed license processed; people will suffer from a shutdown.

When Judge Kathleen Gearin made her ruling on critical services, she did her job to provide a list of skeletal programs and services that government is obligated to fund in the event of a shut down. This may be realistic in the short term, but is unhealthy in the long term.

For the long term, we need to really flesh out what we want the body of our state government and the state of Minnesota to look like 50 years from today. With that said, the questions citizens and politicians need to answer include:

• What is our vision for Minnesota?

• How do we get there together?

Government has a vital role to play in our vision for Minnesota’s future.

After all, Minnesota government was created by Minnesotans for Minnesotans. We have supported higher-thanaverage taxes to pay for quality education, safe roads and bridges, a clean environment, and to care for those fragile citizens that receive much needed medical or mental health care.

Minnesota is an independent state. We are not Mississippi, Missouri, Montana or Massachusetts.

We have been known as a healthy, wellmanaged state that promotes quality education, healthy environment, good businesses, strong agricultural economy and an overall high quality of life. But, like our nation, Minnesota is deeply divided on the ultimate role of government and questions about how we balance our budgets need to be answered.

• Should government subsidize corporations and businesses through tax code exemptions?

• Should government pay for current wars with real time tax dollars?

• Should tax reform include a flat tax or progressive income tax?

• Should Minnesota continue to exempt 89 different goods and services from sales tax?

We must answer these questions and many others if we want to continue to live in a state we can be proud of. Our participation and sacrifice today will benefit the Minnesota of tomorrow.

After all, the events of the last few weeks have not been entirely out of our individual control. Decisions made by each of us over the past months, years and decades have moved Minnesota to the place she is today. It is “we, the people,” who elected those in office. It is “we, the people,” who demand our elected officials provide services, tax exemptions, subsidy payments and (insert state-funded program of choice here).

And it is “we, the people,” who will determine the future of our state. Keep the “we” in government. Take this opportunity to call, mail, email or text your elected officials and share with them your vision for Minnesota.

Let them know you want them to work together for the good of Minnesota.

After all, not a single politician campaigned on the promise to shut down state government should they not get things 100 percent their way. This “I’ll take my ball and go home” attitude is best left on the playground — assuming the park is still open.

Democrat Robin Brown served four years as House District 27A representative.