Another budget surplus, another argument about what to do with the lucre. First of all, just peel off a wad for the soccer stadium, because you know that's going to happen. But they have to pay for the seats. OK, we pay for the seats, but they have to pay for the numbers that indicate the row. OK, we pay for the row numbers, but they have to e-mail us a set of consecutive numbers. Deal? OK, we'll pay for their Internet for a year. And a new computer. What time do you want us to bring it over? 4 p.m. good? No? Well, we'll just sit out in the car until they show up.
As for the rest, we get the same four ideas, every time:
1. Spend it on a new program that will have to be funded until the sun gutters out into a cold black cinder. This is like getting a rebate check for buying some soup and using it to sign up for 10 years of the Soup of the Month club.
2. Give it back to the taxpayers. But they'd just spend it on stuff! So set up a State of Minnesota Gift Shop that sells things like tote bags and $39.95 mugs, and give the rebate in the form of gift cards. The money comes right back to the state, and who couldn't use another mug?
3. Save it for a rainy day. But how rainy? That's the question. I don't know about you, but when I wake up to drops pounding on the window, I think: Ah, finally. The day we have always feared would come. I hear my wife: Husband, there is rain. Have we saved enough? Don't worry! I put some aside every payday, here in this waterproof box. But the weatherman says the rain may last for two days. Do we have enough? We'll hope.
4. Roads and bridges. Everyone's in favor of that, until a few years later the auditor discovers that everything went for Ropes and Britches, because someone in appropriations wasn't listening closely. Then we have millions of pairs of extra pants, and what do you do with those?
I don't know. Cut them up and make them shorts for soccer players?