Predictably, Gov. Dayton threw another hissy fit after House Speaker Kurt Daudt brought up the topic of PolyMet as a possible subject for a special session to extend unemployment benefits for laid off steelworkers. A Dayton hissy fit wouldn’t be complete without him throwing the word appalling into things somewhere. Gov. Dayton lived up to that habit by saying “I’m very, very disappointed in the comments that the Republican leaders have made about how these additional 13 weeks wouldn’t make any difference. They sure would make a difference to people who are going to lose their unemployment benefits… before the holidays. I just find that lack of sensitivity to be really appalling.”
Speaker Daudt and House Majority Leader Peppin are insisting that fixing the underlying problem of chronic unemployment on the range be addressed in addition to extending steelworkers’ unemployment benefits. According to the latest Census Bureau information, 18% of the people in Hibbing live in poverty. As appalling as that is, it’s modest compared to the fact that 24.1% of the people in Virginia, MN live in poverty. Gov. Dayton wants to extend these people’s unemployment benefits. It’s just that he hasn’t done a thing to create permanent jobs that would pay a middle class wage.
For a point of reference, the poverty rate in Minnesota is 11.5%.
It’s appalling that Gov. Dayton isn’t interested in fixing the Iron Range’s long-term problem but he’ll gladly throw money to cover the Iron Range’s short-term problems. This isn’t just a Gov. Dayton problem. Last week, Sen. Bakk, the Senate Majority Leader and the man who represents most of the Iron Range, appeared on the Almanac Political Round Table. Here’s what he said:
I lived through the 1981 downturn on the Range when waves and waves and waves of Iron Rangers moved to the northern suburbs and had to settle there when most of the mines had to shut down. We’re on the cusp of this again this time and I think that the state coming to their aid and giving them extended unemployment benefits, to give those families some time to make some decisions and maybe get a little closer to see if our federal government will act as some of this unfairly traded steel is coming into this country just to build a bridge for those families because once they run out of unemployment, they’re in a situation of probably having to relocate their families.
Sen. Bakk gave no indication that he cared about whether PolyMet would ever open. The thought that Sen. Bakk could look at cities with poverty rates of 18% and 24.1%, then dismiss them without fixing them is, in Gov. Dayton’s words, appalling.