Why are local chambers of commerce from across the state calling for "a budget compromise that includes both cuts and a state revenue increase"? One item ripped from today's headlines underscores how cuts can affect Greater Minnesota residents, communities and businesses.
As a young girl who loved books, I looked forward to the weekly summer stops of the local bookmobile at the lake where I grew up. During the school year, books were always available through the school library, but summer could be hard. Both parents worked in factories and books were expensive--and so the service was deeply savored.
Today's Mankato Free Press notes a Bookmobile cutback to be considered by Blue Earth County:
Bookmobile lovers in Blue Earth County nursing homes, day cares, home schools and Head Starts are probably going to be feeling the hit of tight government budgets next year, maybe even later this summer.
Blue Earth County is hoping to cut its contribution to the mobile library from about $35,000 to $10,000 and is proposing eliminating the specialized stops at old folks homes and kid-heavy facilities.
“We have to look at the whole budget virtually every year these days because revenues are not going up and some of the expenses are,” said Blue Earth County Administrator Bob Meyer. . . .
. . .Tim Hayes, the county’s director of library services, wrote in a letter to North Mankato that staff reviewed all of the stops in Blue Earth County, including the number of patrons and the amount of materials checked out. The county’s proposal is to cut its contribution by about 70 percent and eliminate all stops except single offerings in Good Thunder, Garden City, Amboy, Vernon Center, Pemberton and St. Clair — cities without public libraries.
Now, although I was born in Blue Earth County, I grew up mostly in neighboring LeSueur County, but I doubt that kids who like to read have changed much in either place. And although the internet is available, I think those kids are going to have a lot less opportunity than I had as a rural child.
What's behind the cutbacks? The MFP's Mark Fischenich reports:
Meyer noted that no final decisions have been made by the County Board about the future of bookmobile service in the county. But with local governments facing likely reductions in aid from the cash-strapped Legislature, the county is being cautious about any spending commitments.
It's a small cut, as far as cuts go. But I wonder what little kids won't get hooked on reading, who won't develop the skills to succeed in school. What local business person will shake his or her head in a few years, wondering what happened to kids these days?
Now, that's a county cut, but the library systems in rural Minnesota are funded by county and city resources, all of which are under scrutiny by the axemen. The BEC bookmobile is operated by the City of North Mankato's library.
But if library services shrink, it's not because local private sector leaders didn't fight for the quality of life necessary to maintain a healthy business climate. The St. Paul Pioneer Press's City Hall Scoop notes in Chambers of Commerce say no, no, no cuts to city aid... say what?:
You heard it here first, dear Scoop reader. Chambers of Commerce aren't usually known as the liberal, bleeding heart-sort, but a coalition of suburban and out-state chambers say that cuts in state aid to cities have rippled consequences, such as raising city property taxes.
They're calling on the Legislature to spare local government aid as it proceeds to narrow down a $5 billion spending gap and hammer out a workable budget in the six days remaining in the session. Yowza!
It's not a surprise from this distance. It's common sense. The press release that spawned the astonishment of the pixel-stained wretches notes:
Local chambers of commerce from across the state gathered Monday for a State Capitol press conference to explain that local government aid is critical to business growth and livable communities throughout the state and that the governor and legislature must come together to produce a budget compromise that includes both cuts and a state revenue increase.
The group said that the disproportionate cuts to LGA over the past years have driven up property taxes 65% across the state since 2002, with greater Minnesota taking the biggest hits.
“We already know what a tax increase looks like. It looks like this - a property tax statement - which our businesses and families have been slapped with year after year because of the continued cuts to LGA, and we’ve had enough of that,” said Dan Dorman, a former Republican state representative and current executive director of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency.
Read the whole release for more of the flavor, which includes the Republican former legislator calling for not just "common sense," but "good old fashioned Minnesota common sense."
Dorman and his Chamber of Commerce associates are not alone. The DL Online editorial board writes in Time to compromise on budget:
Concerned about rising property taxes hurting Main Street businesses, a number of chambers of commerce from across Minnesota gathered Monday to support the Local Government Aid program, which faces drastic cuts under Republican budget plans.
At a State Capitol press conference, chamber representatives explained that LGA is critical to business growth and livable communities throughout the state.
They called for compromise, saying the governor and Legislature must come together to produce a budget compromise that includes both cuts and a state revenue increase. . . .
The paper agreed:
. . .Republicans appear willing to throw a lot of vulnerable people off the roof — including renters, seniors and middle class property tax payers — to block Dayton’s 2 percent income tax hike on the state’s wealthiest residents.
Enough, already. They need to meet the governor halfway.
The governor has offered a compromise; House Speaker Zellers, a frat boy simile. Quit with the poses, the sloganeering, and do your jobs. Forum political reporter Don Davis is correct when he writes King Tut, Jello show things at Legislature are not good.
Photo: An early bookmobile in Hibbing.