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< Picking up the pace | Main | Kumbaya at the Capitol >

The magic mirror

Posted at 9:39 AM on February 28, 2007 by Bob Collins (1 Comments)

I suppose it's no secret that the campaign of 2008 is already underway, and it's becoming clear that the Republicans have a strategy for unseating DFLers in the legislature in a year-and-a-half: use the same issue that got the GOP to be the dominant party in the late '90s and early parts of this decade: taxes.

And the DFLers are ready to take them on head on and by the end, we'll know a lot more about... you.

I opined the other day that what makes campaign coverage interesting to me is not holding a magnifying glass to the politicians, but holding a mirror up to the voters.

As this legislative session wears on, the amount of tax increase proposals is certainly, well, "attention getting." Former House Speaker Steve Sviggum spoke out on this yesterday, possibly as much to test the message as to make the point. Sales tax increase proposals are mounting, with the latest yesterday being a seven-county tax increase for transportation (which actually you heard about a day earlier on MFL).

If I had to guess, here's what I think the public reaction will be: "Huh? Didn't we just approval a question on last year's ballot to provide more money for transportation?" Now, there's a good answer to that question that I won't bother getting into, but I'm not focusing on a logical debate, I'm focusing on voter reaction and those two are not always the same thing, and only the latter matters on Election Day. Suffice it to say, although there was talk of a gas tax increase last year, nobody was saying, "and if you vote for this measure, we'll come back in the upcoming legislative session and increase the sales tax too." And you know why.

The DFL rode back into power last November because voters decided -- it says here -- that the results of the last round of cutting taxes was too harmful. But do me favor and look over the election results for the House. Those were very often some razor-thin margins that swung the DFL way in a year that I think everyone acknowledges was a perfect storm for the Democratic Party in this country. Calm the winds just a bit, and the results could be quite different. Winning parties often translate their wins as "mandates." With a few exceptions, they almost never are.

The GOP is counting on that, of course, and they'll run a campaign that says "you put DFLers in and they'll raise your taxes." In the last campaign, the DFL talked about property tax relief to counter that allegation. But so far this session, tax increases are more numerous than any tax "relief."

So round one goes to the GOP and the DFL will have to focus on the other issues that got them back in power: education and health care, because there's certainly evidence to suggest those issues resonated with voters. So...two "winning" formulae will likely clash in '08..

Now, throw in what happened on Wall Street yesterday and you can see the gamble. That surplus could -- and will -- disappear with a coming recession. And there we are again, right where we were in 2002 and 2004.

Now the mirror part: what will be different for you -- if anything -- from then to now that would change the political results?

Comments (1)

The tax issue is certainly complex....but some of the proposals do make sense if we want to continue the progress that Minnesota is known for. As a teacher, I can say that we are loosing ground in areas like class sizes (ask your kids tonight) and technology to prepare students for the future.

This Friday is payday--typically I am a Republican those days--but lately I believe more and more that we need to discuss the Common Good - education, transportation and health care so it makes sense for the most people in Minnesota.

Posted by Doug | February 28, 2007 5:46 PM