Should red and blue states be green and black instead?

(Midwest Energy News, January 25, 2012)—A presidential election year is upon us again, and that means the return of maps splitting the nation into red and blue states.

James Lenfestey thinks we should be seeing green and black instead.

Lenfestey, a Minneapolis poet and former journalist, spoke at a monthly Environment Minnesota breakfast Tuesday about the politics of energy. (Environment Minnesota is a member of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News.)

The oil and coal industries have influenced U.S. politics so much in recent decades, Lenfestey explained, that many red states would be better represented as black for the oil and coal interests they support. Blue states, meanwhile, have led the way on green energy.

Lenfestey’s first exposure to the fossil-fuel industry’s political machine came while working as an editorial writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune in the early 1990s. Continue reading “Should red and blue states be green and black instead?”

“It’s a sad day for Minnesota”

The budget forecast delivered by state finance officials on Wednesday is perhaps the bleakest outlook in Minnesota’s history.

“This is the worst, without a question,” said Jay Kiedrowski, a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

As the state’s chief financial officer under Gov. Rudy Perpich in the 1980s, Kiedrowski dealt hands-on with the fallout from another major recession.

What’s compounding the current shortfall is that it comes on the heels of already deep budget cuts and under a governor who refuses to raise revenues, he said.

The trends, if left unchecked, will have widespread consequences, from larger K-12 class sizes and higher college tuition rates to bumpier roads and fewer police officers.

“It’s a sad day for Minnnesota,” said Kiedrowski. Continue reading ““It’s a sad day for Minnesota””

Gov. Pawlenty suggests he may use unallotment again

He did it before. Will he do it again?

A year ago this week, state finance officials broke the news to lawmakers about a projected $426 million budget deficit facing the state. The report set the table for a round of controversial budget cuts by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who used a once-obscure administrative power called unallotment to take back millions of dollars previously promised to state programs and local governments.

Today, the state’s budget office released this year’s edition of its fall budget forecast, and it showed another looming deficit, $1.2 billion for the current budget cycle. Early this afternoon, Pawlenty confirmed the worst fears of cities and counties, saying that he would prefer to work with the Legislature but that he may need to address the deficit problem this month by unalloting local government aid again.

“The worry is that it will be very large again,” said Steve Peterson, senior policy analyst for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. Continue reading “Gov. Pawlenty suggests he may use unallotment again”

GOP candidates for governor talk about fiscal crisis

A panel of Republican candidates for governor on Wednesday painted a dire portrait of a state in fiscal crisis.

Speaking at a private forum for Medtronic employees, the five GOP contenders described a state budget broken from unsustainable spending. And they spoke about an alarming migration trend they see in which businesses are fleeing the state due to taxes and regulation while indigents flock here to take advantage of overly generous social programs.

The solution, according to former State Auditor Pat Anderson: Be more like South Dakota, a state which has no personal or corporate income tax and fewer public services and amenities.

Minnesota should do “the exact same thing,” Anderson said. “I think the key is to have a good South Dakota-style business climate and then get out of the way.”

But state Rep. Marty Seifert said calling for the elimination of income taxes is “pandering” to voters and that state government needs to use certain subsidies in order to accomplish its goals.

The exchange was one of a couple barbs traded between Seifert and Anderson in what was otherwise a friendly and uncontentious forum, sponsored by Medtronic’s employee political action committee and moderated by Rick Kupchella of BringMeTheNews.com. Continue reading “GOP candidates for governor talk about fiscal crisis”

Chamber draws heat on climate change position

Greenhouse gases are trapping heat in our atmosphere and warming the planet at an alarming rate.

Climate scientists believe if we don’t respond appropriately in the next decade or so, global warming will cause oceans to rise, disease to spread, droughts to prolong, storms and wildfires to intensify, and scores of species to go extinct.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, however, foresees a different apocalyptic vision: a future in which American businesses are forced to do their part to help avert the crisis. (Continue reading…)