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Mike McFeely, Published April 23 2009

McFeely: Broke Minnesota playing politics

But at least we have 10,000 lakes. That is the mantra I will repeat. At least we have 10,000 lakes.

As for everything else in Minnesota at this very moment, well … er … we do have those 10,000 lakes.

As a native and resident of the Gopher State, I’ll admit to gazing across the Red River toward our neighbors in North Dakota and wondering what it feels like to be rolling in dough. Do the silver dollars leave a mark? Do you get paper cuts from the $100 bills?

I also wonder what it’s like to have two U.S. senators, but that’s a different story.

See, over here to the east, we’re broke, and those we’ve elected to govern are so split in finding a solution they might as well be on Mars, Venus and Jupiter.

Actually, just being broke would be a good thing. That would imply Minnesota has a zero balance. It’s really worse than that. We’re so far in the hole, $4.6 billion and digging deeper, that an AIG bonus couldn’t balance our budget. Unfortunately, Minnesota’s only bailout plan is to slash and tax, which means the citizens are going to pay one way or another. And possibly both ways.

This is where it gets fun.

We have a governor, Tim Pawlenty, who is extremely interested in being the Republican nominee for president in 2012. So, in playing to the national base of that party, he refuses to even consider raising taxes (even though it’s a hypocritical stance because the state has raised numerous “fees,” and the governor’s political ploy has simply forced local governments to hike property taxes).

Instead, it’s cut, slash, burn and we get to watch teachers get marched out the doors. The governor’s put his own aspirations above those of his state.

We also have two legislative bodies controlled by DFLers that have reacted to Pawlenty’s no-tax pledge with a pledge of their own: No taxes? HAHAHAHAHA!

The House tax bill would raise $1.5 billion by taxing mostly the wealthy and sinners who buy cigarettes and booze. If you’re a rich sinner, you’re really in trouble.

The Senate’s bill is much less judgmental. It just slaps significant income-tax increases on everybody for five years. It aims to raise $2.2 billion.

What we have is one gigantic problem and three divergent roads on the way to a solution. There seems little chance they’ll ever cross, which would at least give the state a fighting chance.

The answer would seem to lie with a compromise, a combination of smaller tax hikes with smaller cuts. Nobody denies there needs to be budget cuts. Nobody with a stitch of honesty believes generating more revenue through a tax increase wouldn’t help.

Politics is trumping common sense at a time when Minnesotans need a whole lot of the latter and not so much of the former.

How much cash does North Dakota have in the bank? A billion dollars?

Repeat after me, fellow Minnesotans: At least we have 10,000 lakes, at least we have 10,000 lakes ….

Forum columnist Mike McFeely can be heard from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or mmcfeely@forumcomm.com.

McFeely’s blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/mcfeely