Think solving a $5 billion deficit is easy? You’re a fool.
Minnesota’s budget deficit is officially $5 billion. But the fix may prove far costlier, as legislators aim their Bunyan-sized axes at some of the state’s signature sights and traditions, rushing to assemble a budget before the first committee deadline of April 1. When all’s said and chopped, Minnesota may end up a little less, well, Minnesotan.
Thousands of Minnesotans have walked across the Mississippi River at its source in Itasca State Park. Soon you’ll be able to slide across—for five bucks a pop—if a proposal to build a water park there is approved, with the state getting 20 percent of the cut. The developer of several theme parks in Wisconsin Dells envisions a swimming area, two curlicue slides, and a daily show depicting Native Americans showing explorers the river source. And yes, you’ll need to pay double to get back across—or just walk.
The Minnesota Zoo has few options for shrinking short of selling off animals—but one legislator has an evolutionary, er, revolutionary idea: Let them kill each other off. Combining exhibits, such that predators and prey are thrown together is a “more realistic” design, says Representative Mark Droboski. It also saves money, though he’s open to moats and other dividers to make kills less likely. “People watch Animal Planet,” he says. “They know it isn’t Disneyland out there.” And if a popular animal is slain? “That’s nature,” he says.
State officials inked a deal with Delta Airlines to launch a pilot program (no pun intended) that makes Delta the sole sponsor of Fort Snelling. The airline has promised a subtle presence, displaying small Delta logos on the sleeves of fort employees’ uniforms (though a Delta spokesman has also joked about aiming the fort’s cannons away from the airport). Ironically, employees depicting 19th-century soldiers are unable to acknowledge the existence of airplanes while in character.
Legislative proposals to tighten the belt of the Minnesota State Fair include limiting it to seven days this year and staging just three grandstand shows (one of which will have to be REO Speedwagon, as the contract has been signed). Then there’s the “nuclear option” of selling naming rights, along the lines of Schweppes’s State Fair. “You may as well substitute margarine for the Princess Kay sculptures,” carped Senator Arthur Hedlund, a fairgoer since 1936. “Or horse [droppings].”
The gleaming sculptures atop the Capitol comprise an untapped goldmine—literally—according to a cadre of philistines, er, legislators who want to sell off the massive gold-leafed artwork, valued at $550,000. “We’re in the lawmaking business, not the art business,” Representative Phil Binkley told his colleagues, noting that the state has spent millions restoring the pieces. He did not note that the sculptures are collectively entitled Progress of the State.
Cheerleading likely began at the University of Minnesota in 1898, according to social researchers (who better not be getting state funding). But after watching two teams sans professional cheerleaders in this year’s Super Bowl, Senator Bill McAuliffe suggested that the U and the Minnesota Vikings could also get by without “a state-sponsored T-and-A show,” adding, “pardon my French.” Thus ending any speculation that Brett Favre will seek a return to Minnesota.
Tim Pawlenty, following a long tradition, recently picked a painter to add his likeness to the capitol’s gubernatorial gallery. And Representative Amy Sarsgaard has just one word for him: hypocrite. Why would the advocate of less government spending pose for a pricey painting, she wondered, when we now have digital cameras? Asked about the potential for a Pawlenty photo to fade, Sarsgaard shrugged and said, “I expect it will outlast his political future.”