Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Minnesota government shutdown & a response from a senator

Last night, before I shuffled off to bed, I took the time to write my state senator regarding the looming government shutdown right here in Minnesota. When I wrote the letter, I had my typical attitude that our elected officials -- at every level -- are just there for the extra paycheck. Hell, they earn full-time money for a part-time job so who wouldn't want to try their hand at running for elected office?

My letter, edited for some identifying content, follows below:

Dear Senator DeKruif,

I am taking time tonight to write you regarding the budget impasse and looming state government shutdown. The petty, partisan bickering and divisiveness has gone on too long. As a constituent in your district, I am appalled that in the time since your election to the office of state senator that you and your peers have continued to further divide an already strongly divided state. After running on a platform of job growth, you have done absolutely nothing to create jobs. By refusing to compromise with Governor Dayton and meet in the middle, you will actually be causing hardships as people face layoffs while the state government shuts down. Even more appalling is that having the government shut down will actually cost more than keeping all services running as-is.

I am disgusted to think that you supposedly speak for the middle class when it is those very people who will face hardships, inconveniences and potential job losses. Why is it so revolting for the current majority party to face the facts and realize that the logical thing to do is raise taxes on the top two percent of wage earners in the state of Minnesota? In the county where I reside, that boils down to a mere 300 people -- people who can afford a somewhat increased tax burden to turn our state in the correct direction.

While I don't expect a response or you, Mr DeKruif, to even bother reading the opinion of one citizen in your district, I hope that you would do the right thing and work with your peers on the other side of the political aisle. It is bullheaded divisiveness and political posturing that has caused the current state of economic stagnation in our state and country and a governmental shutdown which costs more than keeping services running does absolutely nothing to improve anyone's economic status. I hope that you, Mr DeKruif, at least have the decency to return your wages paid to you as state senator because nobody voted for state senators and representatives who would willingly shut down the numerous services and oust tens of thousands of hard-working Minnesotans from their jobs.

Do the decent thing and either present a budget bill which consists of both spending cuts and tax increases for the top two percent of wage earners in the state or return your ill-gotten wages as state senator. After all, I wouldn't expect to receive a paycheck for accomplishing nothing and neither should you.


[Mr. Sorenson]
Obviously I was less than pleased in how this has played out. It's not a party affiliation thing for me in the least bit -- I'd verbally rip a Democratic member of the state legislature in the same fashion if I was represented by one. Surprisingly, my state senator (or some aide in his office) actually did take the time to respond to my letter. While I don't agree with his stance 100%, I am at least surprised that someone took the time to reply in a timely manner to my thoughtful and strongly worded letter. While I still feel that government should be about compromise and working together and stand by my stance about our state's elected officials forfeiting their paychecks due to accomplishing absolutely nothing, I feel slightly better. Senator Al DeKruif's response follows below:

Dear [Mr. Sorenson],

Thank you for taking the time to contact me, I truly appreciate the input of citizens. I understand that the possibility of a government shutdown is a difficult issue for many, especially workers that face layoffs because of a shutdown.

All people think differently; some are analytical thinkers, some are critical thinkers, some are abstract thinkers. The way we think and is influenced by both genetics and the environment in which we are raised.

Governor Dayton once made a comment about the freshmen legislators not knowing how government works and not being willing to learn; I think that he may be partially right. The freshmen members of the legislature come from a business background we are business owners and entrepreneurs. We are a group of people that have had to make difficult decisions to move our businesses and families forward. We have had to take risks; often with those risks we ran the chance of losing not only our business, but homes as well. We have been through times of struggle; struggle to pay bills, employees, suppliers. We have been able to succeed through the challenges and risks, and know how to make those difficult decisions.

The governor comes from a different background, and has a different mindset; he has never had to be financially responsible for a business and has never had to worry about the struggle that comes from taking a financial risk. Having a trust fund, the governor has never had to worry that a decision that he has made could cost him his home or business. I do not begrudge him that, but I know that his view of the world is different than mine because of that. I cannot see things as the governor does, and I know that he does not see things as I do. Who’s mindset do you most relate to, the governor or those of us that have had to struggle and make difficult decisions?

The issue of the state budget is critical not just for the immediate biennium, but for the future of our state as well. When I was elected I came into office with a resolve to get our state government under control. For too long the role of government has grown unchecked; this needs to be corrected. I want to make sure that this is done right the first time and not leave the problem for a future legislature to deal with.

The governor and the leadership of the unions representing state workers have been teaming up to spread a message of fear and misinformation about the budget. Make no mistake, I am not anti-worker, and I value the hard work and important roles each and every state employee contributes. The workers are the ones that will be hurt by a government shutdown, not the union bosses or the governor. It is wrong that the lives of so many workers and their families are being used as pawns in this game by the governor and the union bosses. The only person in Minnesota right now that can prevent the shutdown is Governor Dayton; only he can call a special session and get a budget in place. At a debate during the campaign, Governor Dayton said he would not shutdown the government for a tax increase. You can see the video here:

But yet he is willing to risk thousands of state workers livelihoods and break that campaign promise.

The Governor and Democrats in the Legislature have a shutdown plan for Minnesota: Inflict maximum pain for political gain.

There is no reason for a shutdown: The legislature presented the governor with a balanced budget that increased spending by 6% without raising taxes. We know from recent polls that only 8% of Minnesota residents want an increase in government spending. We want the Minnesota government to live within its means, just as every family in Minnesota has to do with their household budgets. The budget increases education spending by over $400 million and the Health and Human Services budget by over $500 million. The governor wants to make Minnesota one of the highest taxed states in the nation, yet he has not specified what the additional revenue would be used for, so essentially it is a tax increase for the sake of a tax increase. I do not think that is a good reason to gamble with any state employee’s job! Make no mistake, if we allow government to grow at the rate our Governor wants, while the economy remains stagnant, the next tax increase will be on you. Controlling the spending now helps us into the future.

I also want to share with you a link that shows the time line of budget negotiations so far. This link shows that the legislature has made multiple concessions to the governor, and each time he has rejected them.

To say that we have not compromised is simply not true.

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s “Business Tax Index 2011” ranks the states from best to worst in terms of the costs of their tax systems on entrepreneurship and small business. The Index pulls together 18 different tax measures, and combines those into one tax score that allows the 50 states and District of Columbia to be compared and ranked. Would you guess Minnesota is ranked somewhere in the middle? Hardly, Minnesota is ranked 50th out of 50 states with only the District of Columbia ranked 51st. This is unacceptable and raising our taxes higher makes us even less competitive. We have to turn this around for Minnesota businesses to grow, prosper and again hire our citizens who are out of work.

I ask you to reach out to the governor as well and urge him to work with us to end this budget stalemate. Ask him to live up to his promise to not shutdown the government over a tax increase, especially one that does not have a good purpose! Contact the governor and tell him to stop holding state employees jobs hostage. You can call him at (651) 201-3400; you can email him through his web contact form at

Thank you again for contacting me.


Senator Al DeKruif

Al DeKruif
State Senator
District 25
G 24 Capitol Building
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
651 296-1279 (phone)


Whiskeymarie said...

Sounds like a propaganda/form letter to me, and he didn't even acknowledge the fact that he shouldn't be paid for not doing his job.
Ugh- this shutdown has my blood boiling.

Anonymous said...

The Republicans came to the negotiation table with a different agenda then adverting a shutdown. They brought their social agenda and their personally drawn redistricting map to the table and wouldn't accept any deal unless the Governor agreed to their social agenda demands.

They knew that the Governor would not accept these things as part of any agreement. He even called their bluff to see if they were really sincere about adverting a shutdown and took his tax increase off of the table. The Republicans refused to accept it without the Governor agreeing to their social agenda items and their map.

Our Senator Al DeKruif and our Representative are still collecting pay, per-deim and reimbursements for mileage and lodging. There are 22,000 Minnesotans who are now unemployed - not getting a paycheck. It is unconscionable that our Senator and Representative would still collect their pay.