The state of Minnesota is projecting a $1.1 billion state budget deficit that will have to be resolved when lawmakers convene in January. The new Legislature will be led by Democrats in both houses. They will have Democratic governor - Mark Dayton - with whom to work.
Dayton is proposing higher taxes on the wealthy. The Democrats also are expected to focus on property tax relief and more money for schools. All of that is to be expected. Some of it, particularly the higher taxes, will be detrimental to the future of the state.
Hanging over the session is the "fiscal cliff" in Washington. Federal budget woes could negatively impact Minnesota, says state economist Tom Stinson. He estimates 115,000 lost jobs, falling personal income and declining state revenue. "The fiscal cliff is the ultimate gloom," he says.
Which begs a question amid all the discussions, maneuvering and rhetoric in Washington, and the consequences for state governments and individuals in places like Minnesota and Iowa: Why do we want to be so tied to the federal government? If its budget policies have so many ramifications for us, that means its powers have been expanded too much over time. Our society, rather than putting the focus on individuals and their freedom to live their lives as they see fit, as long as they don't harm others, has instead put too much faith in Washington. And now we face reality. Washington is incapable of acting responsibly. If it avoids the "cliff," a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts, we avoid short-term pain. But the long-term pain still must come, in the form of spending cuts to popular but insolvent federal programs.
We would have been better off if previous generations had not let the federal government become such an ugly behemoth. As it is, we must take responsibility to tame it, and to save future generations from such an awful chore.