Our View: Shutdown bills show it’s a game to legislators

/ 7 March 2012 / jennifer

St. Cloud Times Editorial, March 7, 2012 –

Enough stuff goes on at the Capitol these days to make common-sense Minnesotans think one of two things:

» Do legislators just see themselves as role players in one big game of politics?

» Or are they really that out of touch with what Minnesotans expect from government?

Both those questions must be asked of all legislators amid efforts in St. Paul to pass bills that would seek to blunt the effects of future state government shutdowns.

How would that be accomplished? Basically, the Legislature would pass laws requiring most government services keep operating even if legislators and the governor don’t agree on the biannual budget plan that funds them.

Yes, we’re serious. Many legislators apparently want to take the shutdown out of a shutdown.

Look at Tuesday, when the Senate Finance Committee approved four such bills. Other similar bills are percolating through House and Senate processes. The Associated Press reports these proposals would:

» Continue road construction projects and electrical inspections.

» Keep open the state parks, state campsites and highway rest stops.

» Keep open the Minnesota Zoo.

» Keep up sales of Minnesota Lottery tickets.

» Assure continued funding for state colleges and universities.

» And maintain the issuance of hunting and fishing licenses.

Sorry, but what exactly would be left to shut down? Indeed, couple this list with many state-based services that courts already have determined essential to operating in a shutdown and you have to ask what’s left? What specifically will be shuttered?

Think about what is being created here: If legislators and a governor can’t agree on the state’s biannual revenues-and-spending plan by a set deadline, they would let the state keep providing services that it has not established a way to pay for.

All those legislators who support this concept and who campaigned on the theme of “government must be run like a business,” please explain what business would take such an approach and expect to be successful.

Most importantly, please realize what is likely to happen.

With so many government functions on autopilot, legislators — playing their roles in one big political game — would routinely invoke shutdowns. After all, a shutdown would score them points in their political game while not affecting Minnesotans — with whom they are very clearly out of touch.

Come on, voters. Touch them where it hurts. Tell them not to support these ideas now. And if they do, knock them out of their political game come Election Day.