Thursday, March 29, 2007

Senate DFL: Don’t Do It

By Christopher Truscott

Stuck fighting a small income tax increase on the wealthiest .5 percent of our state’s residents, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his Republican allies are in a tough spot.

They’re trying to pose as champions of everyday Minnesotans while clearly favoring policies slanted disproportionately toward the richest of the rich. That they can do it with a straight face is amusing. That they actually seem to mean it is nothing short of appalling.

A DFL-backed proposal in the House of Representatives that would hike the state income tax on families making more than $400,000 a year and individuals earning more than $200,000 annually would generate more than $400 million over the next two years to help reduce property taxes and boost funding for education statewide.

While Republicans argue that Joe Mauer shouldn’t have to see his state income tax rate jump from 7.85 percent to an even 9 percent, House DFLers are offering a well-balanced package that goes a long way toward reversing some of the damage caused by the Pawlenty administration’s first term in office.

No, it doesn’t pay for everything we’d like to see. It’s not perfect, but after four years of budget cuts, sub-inflationary education spending and massive property tax increases, the House plan is a good start toward rebuilding the promise of the great Minnesota Miracle.

Grumblings out of the Senate, however, threaten to torpedo the House’s work. Among the ideas being batted around is an across-the-board income tax increase.

Nine words of advice: Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.

And three more: Don’t do it. And another: Please.

Maybe in hindsight, as Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Tom Bakk said, the tax cuts signed into law by former Gov. Jesse Ventura were “unsustainable.” But after a miserable journey through a terror attack, recession, war and cuts to programs designed to help the most unfortunate among us, the last thing average Minnesotans need is a tax increase.

If the tax-hike-on-everyone idea – no matter how it’s packaged – gets to the Senate floor, the Republicans instantly go from being the defenders of their top campaign contributors to the voice of reason in the important debate at the Capitol about the future of our state. This cannot be allowed to happen. Not only is it bad politics, it is terrible policy.

After too many hard times, Senate DFLers mustn’t allow the unattainable fantasy to become the enemy of the good and reasonable. Republicans are on the wrong side of this debate. The last thing the DFL needs to do is throw the governor and his allies a lifeline.

Support and fight for the House proposal, do good things for Minnesotans, go home and listen to constituents and then worry about the nice-to-haves in the next session.

In his usual less-than-gracious way, Pawlenty has promised to veto the House proposal. The governor has clearly signaled that his top priority is those wealthy by even the standards of places like Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Edina. If that’s the side he wants to be on, let him explain it to members of the average Minnesota household – which, by the way, makes about $50,000 a year.

Do not make his job easier.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at If the Senate tries to hike taxes on everyone, he wants the state to provide helicopter service from his home to his office.

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