25 August 2010

Tell me something I don't know, gubernatorial candidates.

The three major candidates for governor in Minnesota had a debate about business issues earlier this week. I was particularly interested in the story because they talked about T-Paw's JOBZ initiative. They said it was a failure.

No fucking shit. I could have told you it would fail before it even got off the ground. In fact, I said as much to my boss at the time. I was working for a regional government in Southern Minnesota doing economic development.

JOBZ -- Job Opportunity Building Zones -- was supposed to be an initiative to lure businesses to Minnesota or get existing businesses to expand in Minnesota through a forgiving of taxes, among other things. It was supposed to spur economic development mostly in distressed areas, many of which were in greater Minnesota.

Several communities in our region qualified. So, we had to pitch the program to them. I did much of the research and writing of the proposal, including researching similar programs elsewhere. Part of the idea of that was to find examples of similar programs that worked. I knew it before I started doing the research, but had to confirm with examples -- programs like it all over the country were failures.

Try hyping a program you know is going to fail with only the most tepid of reviews. It isn't easy. That was one of the most challenging things I did at that job.

The program failed because it really didn't bring jobs in from elsewhere and the companies that did expand didn't do much expanding and they were planning on it anyway. The program was supposed to keep companies from leaving Minnesota. Why give them a shitton of tax breaks if they weren't leaving anyway?

Probably the worst thing about the proposal was the presentation my boss had to give in front of some state government big wigs -- including T-Paw. We sat in the front row and I had to listen to him talking about how, despite all the trouble (caused by your "I won't raise taxes, but I will fee the everloving FUCK out of you. Oh, and your local and regional governments will raise your taxes because I refuse to allow state taxes to be raised and we're going to cut aid to local government"), education and health care, social services, transportation, etc. were still doing okay in Minnesota.

I wanted to weep. And this was six years ago. Minnesota is still doing okay in many of those national ranking respects, but we're slipping and we have been slipping. The only thing that kept me from bawling while he was speaking was fantasizing about taking off my wedge-soled Mary Janes and hitting him square in the forehead with the heel. That actually felt really, really good.

So, I've got my vindication now, I guess. But it's not like I didn't know the first time I heard about it. Every time I drive past one of those signs outside of small towns around the state, I think about what a stupid fucking plan it was. It's a hollow victory, to be sure. But it's a victory, I guess.

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