Away from the Capitol, frustration with lawmakers evidentby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Bloomington, Minn. — It's been a week of gridlock at the state Capitol over the state's $3 billion budget deficit.
Democrats in the Legislature say tax increases should be part of the solution. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty is adamant that tax hikes are not an option.
At the Mall of America several people agreed to share their thoughts about the budget back-and-forth at the Capitol. Jenny Lee, 23, of St. Paul, seemed a little embarrassed at first as she explained that she really doesn't understand the dynamics of the debate.
Lee said she doesn't want taxes increased nor does she want government spending cut. She suspects she's not alone in her predicament and that's why the problem is so difficult to address.
"I mean I don't really follow the political side so much but I mean maybe after today I will look up to see what we can do about it or what I can do to try to do something," Lee said.
People this reporter talked with at the Mall who were following the debate, didn't necessarily fall into the party line at the Capitol.
Phyllis Olson, a senior citizen from Crystal, accused both sides of playing games with voters like her. Although she's a Democrat, Olson sees more benefit in cutting the cost of government than in raising taxes.
"As far as raising taxes. I don't know. I mean so many people are against raising taxes again," Olson said. "Sometimes I think the taxes have got to be raised, but then I think we're a big tax state as it is."
A few stores down Keven Davis, of St. Paul, was killing time at the mall awaiting the arrival of his daughter who was coming there on a school field trip. Davis said he's a Republican.
Like Olson, Davis said he was frustrated that the two parties are not working more closely together. Despite his self-described "conservative" status, Davis said he thinks the Democrats were on the right track when they passed the tax increase the Republican governor vetoed.
"I think there should be some middle ground. Can't both sides give a little bit?" he said. "I do think that we could get a little more taxes out of the wealthy, so I do agree with the liberal side of it."
But Davis made it clear: he doesn't want his own taxes raised.
Hugh Ivie, of Oakdale, said he was at the mall because the rain was keeping him out of his garden. Ivie is a senior citizen who said he votes for candidates, not political parties.
Like the others, he said he was fed up with the fighting. He thinks the solution could be found in spending cuts and increased taxes on tobacco and alcohol.
"Pawlenty ought to really let them have a few of the taxes; I personally prefer sin taxes. You know, fine, I believe you should tax sin. I know people look at me and say, 'Well you must not be a sinner!' But still, I am," Ivie said. "This can't continue like we got it. We're going to wind up like England, Greece, Italy."
This unscientific sample of Minnesotans at the Mall of America found different approaches to dealing with the budget shortfall, but unanimous discontent that the governor and lawmakers are having such a hard time getting their jobs done.
- Morning Edition, 05/14/2010, 7:20 a.m.