Bipartisanship works both ways
Posted at 3:23 PM on March 31, 2007 by Bob Collins (2 Comments)
The old-timers at the Capitol knew going into the session that there is something different about the crop of newcomers in the DFL -- they're not Minneapolis-St. Paul legislators. The DFL couldn't have taken control of the Legislature without the help of voters in the suburbs, who sent a surprising number of DFLers in to replace the Republicans who were there before.
Nowhere was that more apparent than District 56 in the East Metro (Woodbury-Lake Elmo) where Kathy Saltzman of Woodbury ousted Sen. Brian LeClair, Marsha Swails took down Rep. Karen Klinzing, and -- in my mind the most surprising -- Julie Bunn replaced Rep. Mike Charron (LeClair and Klinzing were hard-line right-wingers of the old school, but Charron wasn't).
We haven't really seen either Swails or Bunn tested on these issues yet, but on Saturday, Saltzman was. Actually, she was on Friday too and both times, she voted against tax increase bills -- first on businesses on Friday and on the wealthy on Saturday. Had she voted "yes," she was virtually guaranteeing a short four-year stay in the Senate. Woodbury is a wealthy town and a lot of folks there (well here considering I'm in Woodbury as I write this) own businesses.
Where it gets complicated is Woodbury -- judging by last November's election results -- isn't a "no new taxes" town -- indeed, school levies usually breeze through here. It is, however, a "let's not be stupid" town. Jacking up business taxes with a recession on the doorstep and creating the highest income tax rate in the nation? Well, I'm not about to say it's "stupid," but the fact the bill is -- as Tom Neuville said -- "dead on arrival" should reveal something. When a tax bill can pass the Senate -- dominated by the DFL, with four-year terms, by just one vote, that's like beating a JV squad.
Now I'd guess Senate leaders counted the votes and, no doubt, gave the dissenting DFLers the "OK" to vote "no" without offending them, but I'm not convinced that Sen. Ann Rest of New Hope, Saltzman of Woodbury, Terry Bonoff of Minnetonka, John Doll of Burnsville, Ann Lynch of Rochester, Sandy Rummel of White Bear Lake and Dan Skogen of Hewitt weren't about to buck the leadership anyway.
The suburban -- and some outstate -- DFLer isn't an automatic vote, especially on issues that got the DFL tossed out of the House in the '90s. How that plays the next time committee assignments are handed out, of course, we'll have to wait to see. On the other hand, while nothing is guaranteed at election time, the chances the DFL leaders would be in a position to hand out plumb assignments would have been markedly reduced had their insisted the rookies walk into oncoming traffic with a 'yes' vote, no matter how it was spun.
That's my spin. What's yours?
As someone who sits in tax committee and hears all the testimony about who carries the tax burden and why so-and-so should get a tax exemption, I get so frustrated with how the media is reporting this.
The business property tax change isn't an increase in the rate, necessarily. It's a change in the class - to make it the same as the way homeowners are assessed. Instead of a number plus inflation, they will now pay based on valuation like everyone else.
Also, the new top tier isn't the highest in the nation, like every news outlet seems to insist on reporting. California has a 10% tax rate on millionaires and New York City has a rate of 10.5% on top wage earners.
If you go take a look at the Tax Incidence Study (which is done by our own department of revenue in Minnesota, http://www.taxes.state.mn.us/reports/reports.html), taxes overall are still less than they were in 1990. And it shows that the burden of taxes are paid by the middle class, not the top of the tax brackets.
We are funding a well-educated work force. We are funding nursing homes. MNDOT has road project lists which are delayed for years and years due to lack of funding. Which would you cut first?
Posted by Julie A. | March 31, 2007 4:26 PM
Let me just -- for the sake of argument -- throw out this idea of political courage.
Each side doesn't try to get the constituency of the *other* party to foot the bill or make the sacrifice.
How would things look then?
Posted by Bob Collins | March 31, 2007 7:54 PM