With the COVID-19 pandemic increasingly on the wane and with Minnesotans anxious to do some exploring out-of-doors this summer, Republican leaders in the state Senate have decided they want to shut down all the state parks beginning July 1.
It’s the kind of gun-to-the-head political brinksmanship that we’ve come to expect from the party that would rather blow up government than see it work on behalf of average people. It’s a mentality that gives the GOP an edge in so many political battles. Democrats want to see government play a role in making life better, which prevents them from issuing the kind of reckless political threats that have become such a go-to in the GOP’s political toolbox.
As background, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, an Alexandria Republican, told a House-Senate conference committee on the state’s environmental funding omnibus bill last week that he won’t consider any funding for the Department of Natural Resources (which operates the state parks), the Minnesota Zoo, the Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Science Museum, or the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources unless Gov. Tim Walz rescinds or delays a plan by the MPCA to adopt a Clean Car rule modeled on one first adopted by California. Fourteen other states have since adopted the rule, which requires auto manufacturers to gradually increase the number and variety of zero emission vehicles, such as all-electric cars, that they ship to Minnesota.
The new rule doesn’t require any Minnesotan to buy an electric vehicle, but it would give those who want one a greater choice. As it stands, most electric vehicles are only sold in those states that have already adopted the same rule. Gov. Walz supports the policy and, apparently, so do Minnesotans. When the MPCA sought public comment, they received more than 10,000 responses, almost all of which supported the plan. An administrative law judge ruled last week that the new rules are reasonable, necessary, and that the Walz administration has the authority to implement the plan, which is designed to achieve compliance with existing state law that requires the state to lower its carbon emissions.
While the state has made considerable strides in reducing carbon emissions from power plants, we’ve fallen well behind the emissions benchmarks in the transportation sector.
It’s worth remembering that it was Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty who signed the bill that enacted the state’s carbon reduction goals back in 2007. That was a lifetime ago in political terms, at a time when Republicans still believed in things like science. Pawlenty was no liberal, but at least he didn’t want to see the world experience the chaos of climate change.
You might think that the Republicans who control the state Senate would support a plan that provides greater consumer choice for Minnesotans. Yet, in today’s GOP, action on climate change is considered a bad thing, over which padlocking the state parks at the peak of summer is a worthwhile sacrifice.
That matters right here in the North Country, where some of the agencies that would be impacted by the GOP’s proposed shutdown employ hundreds of area residents. And the economic losses from the closure of the state parks would only add to the impact.
Such threats aren’t the actions of responsible or reasonable people. This isn’t how you reach sensible compromise. This is “my way or the highway,” the kind of approach used by radicals, who simply dismiss collateral damage as part of the cost of their revolution.
In this case, of course, it’s a revolution without a manifesto. “Owning the libs” is the only recognizable governing philosophy of the GOP these days. If that means forcing Minnesotans to breathe dirtier air, to face greater risk from climate change, and to make do without their state parks this summer, it’s all a win, as long as someone (including liberals) is upset or inconvenienced by it. Republicans like to complain that government never does anything to help average people. And, once again, they’re doing everything they can to prove it.