Budget talks in St. Paul

Politics as usual this year will hurt Minnesota

As the budget talks at the state get serious, a lot of proposals are starting to be thrown on the table. Most try to address things for the next two-year budget cycle, and some have some provisions to help for 2012 and 2013. However, what is missing is what is needed most: a long-term plan that ultimately provides more stable and secure state funding for the taxpayer and the recipients of state programs and services.

Gimmicks, accounting shifts and reliance on one-time monies do nothing to address the long-term issues that the state and those who depend on state assistance face. Instead of just getting through the next budget cycle, we should be looking out five budget cycles and forecasting out further yet. Instead of funding activities, we should focus on measurable outcomes and results. Instead of trying to do everything, we need to prioritize and do some things well.

Instead of relying solely on budget cuts, we also need to look at how revenues can be increased. Instead of spending when we have it, we need to show discipline and build appropriate reserves. Instead of partisanship, we need a willingness to compromise.

Instead of politics as usual, we need leadership that brings people together to get things done. Instead of short-term fixes, we need long-term solutions.

Mayor Steve Cook, Hutchinson

Major change

What’s good for GM may also be good for America

Given the news about General Motors changing its helmsman, needing to hasten the pace of its restructuring and likely heading to bankruptcy court, it was ironic to see GM’s full-page ad, “Reinventing the ownership experience. Introducing Total Confidence,” in Wednesday’s paper.

Soon GM’s unions and bondholders will learn what this really means. Without rethinking its strategies and making major operating changes, GM earns zero confidence.

Bradley Craig, Burnsville

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Two questions, now that President Obama is in charge of GM’s warranty department: My 2006 Pontiac has only 2,179 more miles before the warranty expires. Lately the darn thing won’t start in the morning. Do you think it might be the starter motor or a battery issue?  Should I get it checked out before the warranty goes away, or will you cover me in case I go a few miles over the limit?

Jim Drennen, Lino Lakes

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Step back and think: Why hasn’t public transit — the most efficient form of transportation — succeeded more in the United States? Because we are a nation of individualists. Our cars reflect our identities. We need them psychologically.

So how about a transportation system that provides efficiency of mass transit with the individualism of private cars? People could have their own separate “cars” — as lavish and cool as they can afford — but use those cars to bring them from their individual locations (houses, offices, etc.) to a common hub where a mass transit system picks them up and whisks them to their general destination. The “cars” would have to be small enough to fit onto the mass transit vehicles (whether trains, buses or something else).

America has always thought big in times of crisis. Maybe our government and our car companies can seize the opportunity for greatness.

Geoff Brown, Deephaven

Cigarette taxes

Raising and wasting them repeatedly

America, a country partly founded to get away from “taxation without representation,” seems to have overlooked some key points in the flurry of cigarette tax hikes at both the state and federal levels.

When our “elected officials” make decisions that defy logic, there is no recourse to rectify the problems they cause. None.

If cigarettes are such a plague on society, then make them illegal. If you want to make a lot of money, legalize pot and tax the heck out of it. Quit talking out of both sides of your mouth and sneaking around  trying to figure out how you can squeeze another penny out my wallet.

President Obama has decided to use a tax designed to essentially force smokers into quitting to fund health care for children. What happens when everyone quits?  A $1.01 tax per pack on chewing gum because it causes excessive muscle fatigue in the jaw? The proceeds from lawsuits against the tobacco companies were, in many cases, never used to help smokers quit or provide for health care of smokers . They were spent in manners deemed fit by each state’s legislative body.

America, wake up! As taxes continue to rise and government gives our money away freely and irresponsibly, we sink deeper into the pit we escaped from some 233 years ago.

Steven Gibbs, Hudson, Wis.