A St. Cloud bridge was closed yesterday due to the fact that it's in bad shape. It will remain closed until repairs can be made. I'm not sure how vital this bridge is to the St. Cloud community and surrounding area, but it represents quite a large problem--the weakening of this country's infrastructure, how to fix and pay for it.
Minnesota Governor (pictured, far left) Tim Pawlenty--a Republican who is apparently trapped in the eighties when it comes to both politics and hairstyles--had vetoed a transportation bill to fix roads and bridges that would have increased taxes. The state legislature voted to override the veto late last month. Pawlenty, with his shaved temples and young mullet, responded to news of the vote by stating, "The DFL has done what it does best, which is to raise taxes on Minnesota families." And here's where I've got a problem with this dicknose.
He says that this is not the time to be burdening families with higher taxes, referencing the economic down-turn that this nation is currently facing. If he really cares for Minnesota families, why is he putting their lives at risk by not making this issue of repairing weak bridges a top priority? Yes, taxes will go up with the passing of this bill, and yes, that's unfortunate, but we also need to take a few things into account.
First, which taxes will be raised? Income? No. Property? No. According to this letter from Pawlenty to the Speaker of the House, a gas tax increase (5 cents/gallon, initially, eventually climbing to a total 8.5 cents/gallon), a sales tax increase (.25% in metro areas), a driver's license and fees increase, and an increased fee on the purchase of new vehicles were the reasons he initially vetoed the bill. What does this mean? Well, with the exception of the sales tax increase, it means that if you want to drive on safer roads and bridges, you have to pay--with money, not your life. The national average price of a gallon of gasoline is 20 cents higher than the Minnesota average. Pawlenty states that raising the gasoline tax would, "propel Minnesota from a state gas tax ranking of 28th in the nation to a ranking of 7th."
So fucking what? I'll pay an extra nickel a gallon if it means not having to worry about a bridge collapse on my way to North Mankato for one of Roger's post-Good Thunder raves. This brings me to my second point. Why is Pawlenty against this bill? Republicans have always been against raising taxes, sure, but this year is different. The Republican National Convention will be held in Minneapolis this November. John McCain is looking for a running mate with youth and a strong conservative presence. I don't know what his preference is toward mullets and wearing blazers over t-shirts, though. But what better way for Pawlenty to showcase his conservative ideals of lower taxation than by vetoing a bill that could prevent the loss of life. He wants to be Vice President.
Finally, along the lines of economic burden, Pawlenty cited the state deficit as another reason for his decision to veto the bill. This bill creates additional spending ($3.6 million this budget period, $86 million through 2011) the governor doesn't believe the state can afford. A valid point. However, it raises the question of how he planned to fix roads and bridges throughout the state. The governor's plan is to enact a ten year bonding, or borrowing, program with a cost of $1.7 billion dollars. He wants to borrower money in a time when Minnesota's deficit of $373 million is growing? That plan blows more chode than Elliot Spitzer's internet pals. I mean, who does this guy think he is, Dub-yah?
The fact of the matter is that political quibbling gets us nowhere. Which is why six Republicans, knowing this problem with the state's infrastructure needed immediate attention, crossed party lines and changed their vote to override Pawlenty's veto. Isn't there some sort of saying out there, I can't remember it exactly, but I think it goes along the lines of, "united, we stand"?