Youse guys wan' minin', right? - MPR photo
by Steve Timmer
Oct 25, 2014, 4:00 PM

It’s beginning to look a lot like Thugmas!

When the going gets tough, the toughs get cracking. Heads, that is. But even they typically do it more subtly and in the shadows than Rep. David Dill and Tom Rukavina. Here’s a recent letter from Dill in the Cook County News Herald, a newspaper out of Grand Marais, a town on Lake Superior and on the east edge of the BWCAW. A summary of the letter:

Tings ca happin ta peepul what doan wan’ minin’, capiche?

From the letter:

There are times when Senator Bakk and myself [sic] have to fight and answer questions from core Iron Range legislators as to why Cook County should get taconite tax dollars when they hear anti-mining rhetoric from some citizens in Cook County.

Legislators are listening to the mining debate [about sulfide mining] going on in the Cook County and elections have consequences. The rail harbor has been shut down for years. The power plant is reducing its output and with generator No. 3 scheduled to be closed in the future there will be more questions. The loss of millions of production tax dollars a year would be devastating to businesses, Grand Marais, the school and the county. The local boards would have very tough decisions to make.

Other counties have stayed in the service area after mining has left their communities. Those communities have realized the benefit it is to be a part of a “mining region” and likewise have supported mining.

Yeah, nice lil’ county ya got dere. Shame if sumptin’ happin ta it. So wacher moufs.

According to Aaron Brown, the Ruk is taking an even more direct approach:

[I]t’s not terribly difficult to find someone who’s been on the receiving end of a letter or phone call from former State Rep. Tom Rukavina, who is currently running for St. Louis County Commissioner. He has been outspoken in dealing with township officials opposed to [new sulfide] mining, again using the threat of IRRRB funding.

Production taxes are paid by mining companies in lieu of property taxes. The minerals coming out the ground are actually owned — for the most part, anyway — by the State of Minnesota, but the IRRRB distributes the taxes raised, and that gives some northern Minnesota pols leverage. Which they apparently aren’t shy about using.

Aaron Brown calls this the “politics of retribution” and “counterproductive.”

I think it’s just a protection racket.

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