I wrote a couple of days ago that Gov. Pawlenty doesn’t usually lose a showdown with the DFL. But this — the bill that would allocate $5 million to study lung disease among taconite workers — might be an exception.
Gov. Pawlenty, according to MPR’s Tim Pugmire, may veto the bill, because he wants to tap the Taconite Economic Development Fund, a tax on taconite companies intended to spur development on the Iron Range.
Republican Rep. Denny McNamara of Hastings gets the “money quote” of the day.
Members on the other side of the aisle, you’re going to vote to tax the snot out of everybody else and let the Iron Range skate, and they’re making money hand over fist. We’re either in a recession or on the verge of a recession throughout the state except for one spot, the Iron Range.
It’s never a good idea — politically speaking — to paint yourself into a corner, by allowing your opponents to position your position as “your cancer isn’t my problem.”
It is — and has been — Pawlenty’s problem for awhile now. His administration already was under fire for appearing to sacrifice the lives of miners by keeping secret possible evidence that there was a link between taconite and cancer.
Under the bill, says Pugmire, the bulk of the $4.9 million needed for the study would come from the surplus in a state workers compensation fund — money that comes from the state’s employers. In a way, the idea isn’t that much different from Pawlenty’s plan to take money from the Health Care Access Fund — a tax on health care providers — to help erase a budget deficit, which set a precedent for using a surplus for things it was never intended.
The money — $4.9 million — is hardly a drop in the bucket, except in comparison to, say, the $30 million the state will ship to ethanol producers, in a bill the governor signed last year.
Pawlenty, as noted before, is a very smart politician. Coming out on top with a veto of the bill will challenge that ability.
Sign or veto? What say you?
Update 10:36 p.m. Aaron J. Brown, on his outstanding blog, MinnesotaBrown.com, points out one interesting factoid:
What Pawlenty and many outside the Iron Range often fail to understand is that our taconite tax revenue, while significant during good times (and not all times are good), is not a secret pot of cash that we use to buy beer and ammunition. It is what mining companies pay IN LIEU of PROPERTY TAX. Mines own or lease thousands of acres of enormously valuable land in northern Minnesota and they don’t pay a dime in property tax. Suburbs raise their revenue from those sleek office buildings along the freeways and in overpriced residential homes. The Iron Range raises its school and community funds from taconite taxes, and per capita we get less money over time as a result. But wait, there’s more. All the while over Range history a portion of these taconite taxes have gone to the state general fund or to the University of Minnesota fund, money that has benefited more than a million people who couldn’t find the Iron Range on a map.