It wasn't earth-shattering news that the 2010 legislative session spilled into overtime and a special session had to be called. We didn't need one of our delivery boys standing on the corner Tuesday morning shouting, "Extra, extra, read all about it governor calls for special session!"
Yeah, they actually used to do that.
It wouldn't have been necessary this week, however. Special sessions have happened before and they will happen again. What's really bothersome is the solution to fix the state's deficit isn't really a solution at all. A Band-Aid, maybe. But a solution? Not even close.
Legislators compromised in various areas, and that's a good thing. But the end to the 2010 session is only the beginning of migraines yet to come. And there's no better proof of that than the biggest source of this year's "fix" - the delaying of almost $2 billion in school payments that were due next June.
Wasn't it Wimpy from Popeye who said, "I'll gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today?"
Essentially, the state told schools it will pay them next year for a session adjournment today. And then the governor and Legislature argued themselves out of any chance for our schools to get their hands on a bunch of grant money from "Race to the Top."
By "fixing" this year's fiscal problem by putting off school payments until next year, we now know the budget deficit will continue to grow like a Chia Pet on HGH. And it's likely that the nearly $2 billion in payments to schools won't even be made next year. Even though the state Legislature is on the hook for those payments don't be surprised if it doesn't make them in 2011. Don't be surprised if the strain our schools are now under continues next year, and the year after, and the year after that. Don't be surprised if schools are forced to borrow more money, or ask you for it.
By playing "Beat the Clock" this past weekend and not getting things done until all the sand in the hourglass had accumulated at the bottom, legislators cut a deal. They settled. That's not to say nothing got accomplished this spring, but all that really happened in terms of the deficit was that the real fix was postponed. And by delaying it and pushing back payments to schools, the Legislature only made things worse - maybe not now, but in the near future. As retiring Sen. Jim Vickerman of Tracy said Monday, this was only a $3-billion problem. Next year it will swell another $2 billion, or maybe even $3 billion.
And the Vikings thought they had a chance this year. They might have made some late-session headway, but unless one of the Wilfs is elected governor in November the chance of a stadium bill for our favorite NFL team passing is slim and none. And slim just left the Metrodome.
Minnesota's next governor will have his or her hands full - maybe more than Pawlenty ever did. Things got so bad this time around Pawlenty decided to go out on his own and made the term "unalottment" part of our everyday lexicon. The court, however, says he went too far and shut down the governor's efforts to wipe out the deficit singlehandedly. Good luck to his successor if he or she chooses to go down that road in 2011.
There will be about two dozen new faces at the state Capitol next year, all eager to jump right in and offer new, fresh ideas to help get this state back on track financially. Whoever they turn out to be, we wish them the best of the luck. As for our governor, at least he can get out of Dodge and congratulate himself for "balancing" another budget. Makes you wonder how many hamburgers he'll eat during his next campaign.