Friday's Weekend Column
Dry Spring / Hard Times

by James Glaser
May 9, 2003

Today I saw one of those planes that swoop down on a lake and fill their bellies with water to drop on a forest fire. Charmaine and I heard this loud noise, thinking that some huge road grader was coming down the road, but the sound was coming from the lake. A while later on the way to town I saw the plane right down on the lake and when it was filled the noise of the engines were really something as it scooted across the lake and lifted into the air.

While in town that plane was filling up on Bartlet Lake. You could hear it, but not see it from town. The woods around here are bone dry and until we get some moisture the fire danger will be moving toward explosive. Some loggers are talking about the year the Department of Natural Resources kept them out of the woods because of the fear of fire.

Here is my first product endorsement. No one asked me to do this, I just found a tool that works so well I have to pass it on. Sad to say it isn't made in the United States, but it is made in Canada. I bought myself the Garden Claw, the "Gold" one. It is a hand tool for weeding the garden and works real slick. You set it on the soil, give it a twist and the prongs at the bottom turn into the soil. You pull up and then you can pick out the weeds. So much easier than digging each one out with a hoe. Now it might not work as well in clay or packed earth, my gardens have lots of sand and compost mixed in with the soil and are pretty easy to dig in, but I think I will be using this all summer, around the plants to keep the weeds out and to aerate the soil.

The soil is still pretty chilly when you get down a few inches and there is almost no moisture until you get down six inches. We have had no rain this spring and even I would like to see some. I usually don't want rain, because in Minnesota it seems like once it starts, it keeps raining for weeks. Also, no rain, less bugs, no rain, no lawn mowing, and no rain, another nice day to work outside. We only have so many real nice days a year, so I will take a few extra when they come. Last year we had weeks of rain and maybe we will get some of those lost days back this year.

The State of Minnesota is about four and a half billion dollars in deficit. Our Republican Governor signed a "no tax pledge" during the campaign, when the state was two billion down. Well he is sticking to his guns, cutting programs for kids, the elderly, the disabled, women, arts , education, and State Aid to cities. We all know that property taxes will go up and he will say, "It Wasn't Me."

Well yesterday he had a pep talk with the other Republicans in the legislature telling them to hold the line and stop any tax increase. Governor Pawlenty said, "There are not many thinking economists in the country who would say when you've got a recession, when you've got mass layoffs, when you've got economic stagnation, a good idea is to raise taxes"

It happens every time, twenty minutes later, the Governor's own top two advisors from the Council of Economic Advisors called for just that and warned that the budget woes may worsen in the near future. Art Rolnick, senior vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and Paul Anton, president and chief economist of Anton, Lubov, and Associates, argued that higher taxes are preferable to cuts that would jeopardize the state's fabled quality of life and would produce a more lasting economic foundation. They went on to say about more taxes, "It wouldn't drive away jobs and we would be more competitive."

These were the guys the Governor was looking to back him up. It is hard to sign a pledge to a no tax group and then a year later everything changes and there you are stuck with that promise. You know they will hold you to.

For the last twenty five years or more, Minnesota has been near the top as the "Most Livable State." Last year we were number one. Taxes are higher here, but you get what you pay for. Most people in Minnesota are willing to pony up the extra money to help out when times are tough. No one here wants to see little kids and disabled people suffer, when it is within our means to help them.

You see that "Minnesota Nice," throughout the state. From the people that stop to give you a push when the snow is over your tires, to the people that bring over the hot dish when a family member is sick. And yes, those same people are telling their Representatives at the State Capitol that we can get through this if we all pitch in together and we are willing to pay more now in these hard budget times.

After all, that is how our parents taught us. Help those in need and stick together.

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