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Minnesota: Protest Demands a 'People’s Bailout'

By staff

People in MN state capitol hallway holding signs & banners for People's Bailout

St. Paul, MN – While state officials announced a record $5.2 billion dollar budget deficit at the State Capitol here, Dec. 4 , about 25 members of the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout were outside the room chanting, “Hey politicians, here’s the fix! Tax the rich! Tax the rich!”

Calling the budget situation “ugly,” state economist Tom Stinson raised the possibility the economy could be entering its worst period since big recession of the 1980s or the great depression of the 1930s.

Deb Konechne, of the MN Coalition for a People’s Bailout and the Welfare Rights Committee, talked to reporters outside the forecast presentation about fighting the effects of the crisis, stating “Low-income organizations, community groups, labor unions, immigrant rights organizations and others who are working for justice are coming together to meet the effects of the economic crisis head on. We cannot afford to allow the funding and programs that serve working and low-income families to be placed on the chopping block. We need solutions to the problems we face.” Members of the Welfare Rights Committee held a banner reading, “Bail out poor and working people, not billionaires.”

The MN Coalition for a People’s Bailout is pressing for legislation that would provide income and jobs to the unemployed, a mortitorum on home foreclosures and evictions from foreclosures and measures to prevent layoffs to public employees. Together, these measures constitute a bailout for poor and working Minnesotans. Coalition leaders vow to combat attempts to balance the budget on the backs of poor and working people, and will oppose any attacks on undocumented immigrant workers.

Phyllis Walker, a Coalition leader and president of AFSCME Local 3800 says, “We reject the notion that we all need to ‘tighten our belts,’ when our belts are already on the last notch. We also reject the notion that we ‘all have to suffer a little.’ We are already suffering too much. While the rich were enjoying their ‘tax relief,’ we have been living through rising unemployment, poverty and skyrocketing homelessness. Poor and working-class families did not cause the budget crisis, and we should not have to pay for it.”

The Dec. 4 forecast presentation and protest was another round in what promises to be a tough battle at the capitol in 2009. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is politically close to the failed presidential candidate John McCain, has ordered state agencies to prepare for 10% spending cuts. The state legislative leadership (all Democrats) have not raised the possibility of taxing the wealthy or rolling back past corporate tax breaks.

“We fully expect that the governor and many legislators will be pushing for schemes to further impoverish Minnesota’s people. We will not stand for it. We ‘forecast’ that working people and low-income people of Minnesota will fight them every step of the way. And AFSCME Local 3800, a partner in the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout, will be in the forefront of that fight,” said Phyllis Walker.

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