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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lange: SD Can Learn from Minn. Statesmanship, ND Criminal Justice

Last week I noted the difference in fiscal politics between Minnesota and South Dakota. That essay arose from a conversation with my neighbor and outgoing state legislator Gerry Lange. In the following guest column, he exapnds the view to include North Dakota:

Recent headlines here in Madison and in Minnesota highlight our two states’ sharply contrasting value systems. Here in South Dakota, our leaders are telling us we’ll have to cut ecucation funding to balance the budget! There in Minnesota, the finally-elected new governor, a multi-millionaire heir of the Dayton fortune, is acting like a statesman with “noblesse oblige!”

Rather than slashing education and vital services, he’s calling on his own class of affluent “winners” to come up with more income tax to patch their budget holes. How could sister states be so different? Could be a matter of their preferring a number one quality of life where it’s worth the trade-offs: more taxes for better wages, better infrastructure, and no taxes on food, clothing, auctions, and building contracts.

National government publications are rich with “best practices” from other states. As legislators, we brought home numerous “success stories” from meetings all over the country. One of the best that could save us millions is as close as North Dakota! They’ve been doing “electronic monitoring” and intensive probation for quite a few years. Results? 1000 fewer in prison than here, and a ten percent recividism compared with some fifty percent in most states.

Most of our leaders in Pierre know this, so it’s puzzling as to why we don’t adopt this successful approach. Do South Dakotans really believe that converting colleges to prisons has been a better strategy? Do tax-fearing voters really prefer to balance the budget on the backs of our kids?

—Gerald Lange, December 2010

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Lange should not confuse the election of Mr. Dayton with a ringing endorsement of liberal politics.

    First, both houses of the MN legislature were swept by the GOP -- the Repubs did not lose a single legislative race statewide; in Minnesota, of all places! Clearly, there was a statewide shift to the right in 2010.

    Second, look at how close the governor's race was. With the overwhelming conservative majority in the statehouse races, why didn't Mr. Emmer ride the wave into the governor's mansion? The same reason Ms. O'Donnell didn't win in Deleware, and Mr. Miller didn't win in Alaska. Not because people rejected conservatives, but because he was the wrong candidate. Minnesotans decided that they didn't want an arrogant, drunk-driving, governor who had nothing better to offer than Mr. Pawlenty currently does. Irrational, yes. Unpredictable, no. Clearly, people here wanted to throw the bums out and change for the sake of change.

    (Don't get me wrong. I'm actually something of a fan of gridlock -- it insures that only policies with broad support are implemented.)

    MN is a state in transition. Historically liberal, the decline of blue-collar jobs in the north, and growth of white-collar jobs in the Twin Cities suburbs have created a significant conservative bloc (witness the rise of tea-party fave Ms. Bachmann). Interestingly, Rochester seems to be something of a swing district. Gov. Pawlenty spent tons of time down here during his term, and the 2010 candidates were here until the last day of the campaign.

    Dayton is anything but a stellar candidate, but Minnesotans have lived with huge budget cuts during Mr. Pawlenty's term. We can at least appreciate his honesty -- "you want to balance the budget and fund education, then taxes have to rise." Statewide name recognition also helps. But one should not confuse his election with enthusiasm for his message. Most people held their nose and filled in one circle or the other.


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