After hearing the Minnesota government shutdown was about to end, you'd think dozens of union members in Willmar would be in a better mood. About 70 members of various labor unions got together Thursday evening at AFSCME headquarters to talk to (grill) our three District 13 members of the legislature about the shutdown, job issues and other legislation.
Just hours before the meeting, Governor Dayton announced he would accept a 2-week-old list of conditions to end the shutdown from legislative Repubicans, with a few conditions of his own. It apparently worked, and it looks like after a brief special session in the next few days, 20 thousand state workers could return to their jobs.
I went to the meeting, and in light of the recent developments, did not think Senator Joe Gimse and Representatives Bruce Vogel and Paul Anderson, all Republicans, would show, assuming they would be on their way to St. Paul in preparation for the special session. But 10 minutes into the meeting they walked in and took their seats. After that, their backs were literally up against the wall. Everything labor unions have ever had against the Republican Party came out. One somewhat humorous exchange involved what the rich pay for taxes. Governor Dayton ran on a platform that the rich don't pay their "fair share of taxes" and as part of the budget deal, he gave up on his insistance that taxes on the rich go up. The union members wanted to know why the rich pay lower taxes than the middle class. The lawmakers say statistics from the state revenue department that are often used to attack the rich take ALL taxes, not just the state income tax into account. The lawmakers said if you look at the actual income tax brackets in the state, upper-income Minnesotans pay a higher tax rate than the middle class. The crowd was not convinced.
I must commend everyone who was at the meeting...there wasn't shouting or name calling, people were passionate but civil, and the lawmakers held their own and held their ground. I don't know that either side left the room converted to the other side, but perhaps there was a little more understanding.
My son Michael is doing a summer job in Sisseton SD and is missing Sonshine for the first time in 4 years, and he's not happy about it. I told him how wet it's been, but he still wishes he were here. The young and enthusiastic concert goers don't seem all that phased by the 2 or more inches of rain that has fallen since things began Wednesday night. However, there have been a lot of Sonshiner-sightings in the Kandi Mall and Perkins.
If I had the money, I would buy a flat-bed semi trailer and put 30 clothes dryers and a couple generators on it. I would bring it to outdoor festivals like Sonshine that get plagued by rain so people can dry out their clothes, camping gear and sleeping bags. This week, I would have made enough to finish sending Michael to St. John's!