Senator Mike Parry first burst into the scene following a series of unfortunate tweets were discovered by tweeps and bloggers during a special election in January 2010.
Apparently, the Republican Party of Minnesota knew it had its guy with the former Waseca city council member, ex-radio guy, consultant and owner of a Godfather's Pizza.
Now, he's taking a lead in shifting Minnesota's tectonic plates toward Wisconsin. Hot Dish Politics at the Strib reports:
Turning up the heat on an already sensitive topic nationally, Republican legislators in Minnesota said Monday that the state’s public employees needed to pay more of their pensions to help solve the state’s budget crisis.
A rapid shift. The Strib notes:
In a sign of how quickly the proposal was moving in the Republican-controlled Legislature, Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, who chairs the Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee, said the legislation would be introduced Monday and be referred to his committee. Parry said the plan would not await to be heard by a legislative panel on pensions.The proposal would, for example, require correctional employees to raise the percentage of their salary that goes to their pensions from 8.6 percent to 11.6 percent. Judges would go from 8 percent of their salary to 11 percent of their salary, and basic members of the Public Employees Retirement Association would generally go from 9.1 percent to 12.1 percent.
The governor and labor leaders responded quickly. The AP reports:
Dayton avoids issuing direct veto threats of specific bills, but at a press conference Monday, the governor said the GOP pension proposal "would go far beyond what Wisconsin is proposing." The Democrat also reaffirmed his support for collective bargaining rights for government employees.
"Those agreements are contracts, legal obligations of both parties and they need to be honored," Dayton said. "The right to negotiate changes to those is something that both parties have and should not be taken away unilaterally by some kind of outside authority."
In Minn. GOP senators take aim at public worker benefits, AFSCME leader Elliot Seide told MPR report Tim Pugmire:
This is a unilateral pay cut," said AFSCME Council 5 Executive Director Eliot Seide.
He said he hopes DFL Gov. Mark Dayton will block such changes.
Seide also said Minnesota isn't ready to follow Wisconsin's lead.
"I think this is precisely the plan laid out by Gov. Walker and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is run by right-wing extremist billionaires and other cheap labor conservatives, to divide public workers against private workers and to drive down the wages and benefits of all workers," Seide said.
A comparison shows that the situations in Minnesota and Wisconsin are different already.
Before Wisconsin's so-called budget repair bill passed, public employees contributed little to their own retirement and health care. That's not the case here.
In Minnesota, public workers and taxpayers evenly split contributions, at rates varying from about 5 percent to 10 percent of salaries.
Numerous friends in the private sector have chimed in on twitter that that contribution rate equals their own.
Shar Knutson replied that Parry’s Plan is a Wisconsin-style Attack on Middle Class Families:
Responding to State Senator Mike Parry’s proposal to further squeeze public sector workers’ hard earned pensions, Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson issued the following statement:
“Senator Parry’s pension proposal is unfortunately an attempt to bring an extreme, Wisconsin-style attack on middle class families across the border to Minnesota.
“Senator Parry should know that Minnesota public employees already pay a significant share of their pensions out of pocket.
“The Senator should also recognize that the average public employee makes around $38,000 a year and retires with an average annual pension of $13,000 a year.
“Middle class families across the state have already sacrificed more than their fair share in the last decade.
“It’s time for lawmakers to stop these attacks on middle class families and stay focused on creating jobs now and balancing the budget fairly.”
The move looks like more of the same divide and conquer strategic, playing workers against each other, just as the GOP pits urban and rural against each other.
Photo: Senator Mike Parry.