State Rep. Keith Downey, the GOP Senate candidate in district 49, is probably best known for his 15×15 plan, mandating a 15% reduction in the state’s payroll by 2015. What’s so magical about 15%? It’s the same as the last two digits in 2015. 15 … and 15. See? Isn’t that clever? All the same thought that went into Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” plan, which I believe was borrowed directly from a pizza pricing campaign. I’m not sure if Downey got his plan from a pizza sale, or a price war among sandwich shops.
Unfortunately, looking at Downey’s bills, this isn’t the only time Downey went off the deep right end with no concern for the consequences. It’s probably not even the most egregious example. This might be though: Downey authored a bill to reduce the maximum weeks of unemployment compensation to 18 when the state unemployment rate is below 6%, and as few as four weeks should unemployment ever dip below 3%. Current law says maximum unemployment benefits are the lower of one-third what the unemployed person made over a one-year period, or 26 times the weekly benefit. It’s not much to survive on, but Downey wants to reduce it further.
(c) The maximum amount of unemployment benefits available on any benefit account is the lower of:
(1) 33-1/3 percent of the applicant’s total wage credits; or
26 [The strike through is in the bill. That’s the current 26 weeks being replaced.] (i) four times the applicant’s weekly unemployment benefit amount if the
statewide unemployment rate is at least three percent;
(ii) ten times the applicant’s weekly unemployment benefit amount if the statewide unemployment rate is at least four percent;
(iii) 18 times the applicant’s weekly unemployment benefit amount if the statewide
unemployment rate is at least five percent; or
(iv) 26 times the applicant’s weekly unemployment benefit amount if the statewide
unemployment rate is at least six percent.
We probably will never see unemployment below 3%, so why would he even bother lowering the maximum weeks to four? We’re already below 6%, so this measure would reduce benefits immediately when the job market still is difficult. Would he do anything about prohibiting employers from discriminating against unemployed applicants as is so rampant now? If so, he didn’t include it in the bill. Instead, he seems to want to punish unemployed people for not having a job by cutting holes in the safety net.
One mark of a fundamentalist is not caring about the effects of policies, as long as the ideology is pure. Downey didn’t care about the effects of dumping an arbitrary 15% of state employees or reducing unemployment benefits, nor did he care about the effects of the government shutdown the Republicans brought us in 2011:
“Nobody wants a shutdown, but it’s an interesting opportunity to see what impact not having these nonessential employees has,” he said. “It will allow us a chance to assess, one-by-one, what can actually be done without all of those people.”
He knew, or should have known, because it came up before the shutdown, how hard his shutdown would be on people with disabilities. Sure, lots of people thought the only effect of the shutdown would be the state parks would close, but a legislator should have known better. Somehow Downey could take an action that would have a profound effect on vulnerable people with the attitude, “it’s an interesting opportunity to see what impact not having these nonessential employees has”. Maybe he thought only state employees would be hurt, and it’s not like he values them at all anyway.
Downey made it apparent how little he respects state employees by a change he tried to make in the rules controlling when state agencies can hire outside contractors. He wants so badly to replace public employees even at the extra cost of hiring contractors, the he tried to take out the requirement that no employee be available before hiring a contractor. He struck this line in the list of requirements for hiring a contractor: “no current state employee is able and available to perform the services called for by the contract;” In case it’s assumed laid off employees would be called back because their old jobs need to be done again, this line was also struck: “the agency will not contract out its previously eliminated jobs for four years without first considering the same former employees who are on the seniority unit layoff list who meet the minimum qualifications determined by the agency.”
Efficiency be damned I guess. Let’s spend extra on contractors despite having people on the payroll who can do the same job, or being able to recall laid off employees who already know something about the work they would be doing.
That’s looking at bills he authored. In his voting record, he voted twice for Minnesota’s version of the “stand your ground” law, also called the “shoot first” law, or maybe we should call it the “let’s make Minnesota as nuts as Florida” law. I wonder if he’s been admitting to this since the Trayvon Martin murder? I wonder if he checked into the effect of this law in Florida before voting for it? Most of us heard about how many killings Florida had only after the Martin murder, but if you’re going to pass such a law here, wouldn’t you check? Only if you cared about the effects of your ideologically correct vote and as we keep seeing, Downey doesn’t care.
Finally, some brief bits of Downey’s brilliance: