Posts Tagged ‘Taxes’

Dayton Proposes to Raise Taxes; No Spending Cuts

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Former U. S. Senator Mark Dayton

When former U. S. Senator Mark Dayton announced his intention to run for Governor of Minnesota last month, he proposed to raise taxes on the top 10 percent of income earners, which he claims will bring in an additional $3.8 billion in a two-year biennium. At the same time, he claims, according to this Minneapolis Star Tribune article, that he “whatever I can, whenever I can, wherever I can to bring new jobs to our state.” Maybe someone should tell him that taxing job proviers more is not the way to attract them to our state.

The Truth Detector gives Dayton some credit for his honesty in his complete love of government bureaucracy, as he gives no indication that he would cut or streamline government at all. He only wants to raise taxes and spend more.

Dayton, like many other tax-and-spend advocates, cite the Tax Incidence Study to claim that wealthy Minnesotans pay a smaller percentage of their disposable income in taxes than middle income or lower income folks. This is where the Truth Detector has to give Dayton a “half-truth”, because every time Dayton and his taax-and-spend allies bring this up, they fail to tell the whole story.

Yes it’s true that high income earners pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes, according to the Tax Incidence Study. This is because the study takes into account regressive taxes (those that fall most heavily on the poor and middle class), such as gas taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and alcohol and tobacco taxes. The income tax (which is very progressive in Minnesota) hits high income earners very hard.

The part of the story that is not told is the part that makes the most sense, if one takes a few seconds to think about it. High income earners pay a smaller percentage on almost everything, when compared to folks who make a more modest income. Think about it! Utility bills, food, clothing, car payments, groceries. It may not seem fair to a lot of people, but high income earners have more money at thier disposal for life’s necessities than middle-or-low income earners. Of course, their tax burden will be a smaller percentage, when factoring in all taxes.

The other part of the story that the tax-and-spend crowd will refuse to tell is that liberals in the Legislature have been effective at raising regressive taxes in recent years, such as the gas tax, and the additional sales tax for the arts and outdoors. These are regressive taxes that are disproportionately paid by low and middle income folks. So they made that tax system in Minnsota more regressive, and now they cry about how unfair it is that the rich aren’t paying their fair share, so let’s sock it to them by raising the income tax!

And politicians like Dayton, who probably never had a private sector job, have virtually no capacity to make government smaller.  Heaven help us if he or one of his ilk become our governor for the next four years.

Legitimate offer by Pine County, or Bait and Switch?

Monday, July 13th, 2009

The City Council in Pine City convenes a special meeting this Wednesday eventing to discuss the possibility of purchasing the old Pine County jail from the county for possible use of city hall offices. The county is asking $200,000 for the former sheriff’s office and jail.

“Wait a minute,” I hear readers asking, “I thought the asking price was $50,000! What happened?”

Well, in case you aren’t keeping up, the asking price for the former courthousewas $50,000. That was before the present county board determined that the new courthouse facility, which if memory serves me correctly was built at a cost of $28 million, is not big enough for all the county’s space needs. Yes, I’m talking about the courthouse facility that the county has been in less than two years. So rather than offering the former courthouse, which at one time the county board determined was uninhabitable and too far gone to fix up, to the City of Pine City, the county is now keeping the facility for its own use.

Although there is only one county board member who is still on the board from the entire episode of the county split issues and the attempt to move the county seat to Hinckley, my cynical side says the county board saw an opportunity to extract more money from the Pine City taxpayers than originally planned.

From Pine City’s perspective, or at least from the perspective of a Pine City resident, there is one issue that remains constant. Money. Or lack thereof. PIne City does not have in its 2009 budget any money for the purchase of the old courthouse or the old jail. In the era of reduced Local Government Aid (LGA), it makes one wonder where the money will come from. The old jail is reportedly valued at over $1 million, making the $200,000 asking price appear to be a good deal. But if the money isn’t budgeted, a “good deal” is still a burden on the city taxpayers.

A secondary issue is priorities. Pine City needs a new fire hall. Nearly everyone in the city is in agreement that the need is there. The only question that remains is what are Pine City taxpayers willing to pay for one? Yet not one dime has been put away for the construction of a new fire hall.

But back to the city hall/courthouse issue. The issue that is driving this whole thing is space. Or lack thereof. Or, should I say a perceived lack thereof.

You see, the library in Pine City is bursting at the seems, or so it seems. The Pine City Library Foundation is expecting a sizable and generous donation for library expansion if they get the plans put together and move forward. Well, guess what? the most obvious place for the library to expand is in the building that it shares with city hall. So that means city hall will have to move somewhere. The old courthouse for $50,000 would have been a good deal, assuming the city had any money set aside for it, in spite of the fact the old courthouse is three times bigger than the city needs for its offices.

But the county has space issues. So the county needs the old courthouse building that a few years ago was uninhabitable and too far gone to save. So in its generous offer to resolve the city space isues, it offered the old jail, which is one-third the size for four times the money. Maybe this is all legitimate, but is sounds like a classic “bait and switch” to me.

Amongst the library’s space needs, the city outgrowing its offices at their current location, and the county outgrowing its new facility before its “new” smell has disapated, I’m wondering whether anyone considered looking at it from a different perspective. Rather than expanding space to facilitate growing government bureaucracy, why not streamline staff and paperwork to fit current space? I know it sounds crazy, but I can’t be alone in this thought. You see that big chunk of “free money” for the library expansion isn’t free after all if the city ends up having to pay $200,000 it doesn’t have to move its offices a couple blocks over. By the way $200,000 is only the beginning, as major renovations will be necessary to make the old jail habitable for city offices.

Cities and counties are cash strapped, and taxpayers are resistant to the idea of giving up more of their money for government facilities as evidenced by the struggle to get a new firehall in Pine City.

Maybe I’m all wet. But I hope to make it to the city council meeting Wednesday night and report back here on the East Central Truth Detector if I can make any sense of the whole situation.

Who said it? (And a New Blog Feature)

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Yes, we are adding a new section to the East Central Truth Detector blog, called “Inside Baseball“. This will be a place to go on this website that allows a reader to delve deeper into an issue or find answers to trivia questions and brain teasers on the regular East Central Truth Detector posts. You will need a password to access the information, which you can request for free by e-mailing me at truthdetector@eastcentraltruthdetector.com.

So today, we will start with three quotes, and your job as the reader will be guess who said them. Two of the answers probably will not be a surprise. One of them might be.

Quote 1 [addressing the issue of tax increases]: “this is one of the districts that that change in the tax policy is the best for of all the districts in the state.”

Quote 2 [addressing the issue of gay marriage]: “They talk about the 515 rights that married people have that gay couples can’t have . . .  and some of those are things like if their partner is ill and they . . . they can go to the hospital but  they’re not recognized as a family member, even though they have been partners for many, many years . . .those are some quality things that I think we need to address.”

Quote 3 [addressing the issue of gay marriage]:  “Emotionally, I tend to be more with the rest of my generation on this issue, I tend to be more libertarian and would like to allow for gay marriage.”

MN House Meltdown IV – The Final Minutes of Session

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

The final minutes of the 2009 Legislative session in many ways were a repeat of the end of the 2007 session. The Democrat majority had all session to balance the budget in a way that would be acceptable to the Governor. Governor Tim Pawlenty had been very clear all along that he would veto tax increases. However, that didn’t stop Democrats from trying to jam through a huge tax increase bill in the waning minutes before the constitutional deadline for adjournment.

The difference that this year brings compared to previous years? As Rep. Tom Emmer (R – Delano) stated during the debate referring to the 33-page mega tax increase bill, “I’ll give you credit for one thing – you managed to do, in much fewer pages, a lot more damage than you did with a lot more pages the last time!”

And that was the only difference. Billions of dollars of tax increases in a complicated tax bill plopped on legislators’ desks literally minutes prior to the constitutional deadline for adjournment. Democrat leadership didn’t want the public to know, and it could be argued, they didn’t want members of their own caucus to know what was in the bill. Just vote yes.

This led to the procedural meltdown that was nearly a replay of the 2007 session. Majority Leader Tony Sertich (DFL – Chisholm) making a motion to end debate, Republicans, trying to stop the bill by asking questions and demanding standing votes and roll call votes, and ultimately, a clearly rattled Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher cutting everyone off and getting the bill to a vote ahead of the midnight deadline in spite of the fact several Republican members were seeking recognition to be recognized and speak.

It was an ugly scene for anyone to watch.

The bill passed the House 82-47. Republican Reps. Buesgens, Emmer, Hackbarth and Holberg did not vote on the bill. DFL Reps Kath, Obermueller, Otremba, Pelowski and Poppe joined 42 Republicans in voting against this tas increase. The bill was then rushed to the Senate where a similar scene took place. In that chamber, all Republicans refused to vote. The bill passed 35-1 with Sen. Sparks (DFL – Austin) casting the lone “no” vote. 

In the end, the Bill was vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty, which was expected.

So why did the Democrat leadership play that game? Simply so they could say they sent the Governor a balanced budget. Yes, Democrats needed to jam through a colossal tax increase to cover all the spending they sent the Governor during the previous month.

The Governor will not call the legislature into special sessoin. He will use his unallotment authority to unilaterally make spending reductions. DFL legislative leaders recently sent the Governor a letter saying they would not help him with unallotment. No surprise there. They’ve been no help with the budget all session. Why would they start now?

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives in the Republican Caucus. Tihs blog is not paid for or sponsored in any way by any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee. Opinions expressed herein are those of the website administrator and not necessarily those of any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee.

MN House Meltdown III – the Unconstitutional Tax Increase Bill

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Here’s a Minnesota House meltdown that didn’t receive much coverage, if any at all from the mainstream media.

Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature are so eager to pass tax increases they are willing to cut corners and ignore the constitution to push them through. Consider the path of House File 885, one of several major tax increases that Legislative Democrats passed and fell to the floor with a thump once they landed in Governor Tim Pawlenty’s office.

HF 885 started out as the “Tax Omnibus Technical Bill”. It contained benign, technical tax policy that was largely non-controversial. On May 7th, the House passed it off the floor on a bipartisan vote of  120-11. The Senate Received the bill and promptly loaded it up with one of the highest income tax rates in the nation, the highest alcohol tax in the nation and egregious tobacco tax increases. The Senate also added a surcharge on credit card issuers (aka banks) that charge interest on credit cards. This version of the bill passed the Senate 43-23, also on May 7th. A conference committee was hastily named to work out the differences between the House version and the Senate version of the bill, and of course the bill came back to the House on May 8th looking more like the Senate version, loaded up with the plethora of tax increases.

HF 885 was debated at length on the House floor on May 8th, and on a vote of 86-45 was re-passed, or so Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher ruled. Immediately upon the Speakers pronouncement that the bill had been re-passed, Rep. Mark Buesgens (R – Jordan) raised a point of order, stating that the Speaker’s ruling was incorrect and that the bill had actually failed. The basis for Rep. Buesgens’ point of order is a little known provision in the Minnesota Constitution. Article IV section 26 says “Passage of a general banking law requires the vote of two-thirds of the members of each house of the legislature.” This means the vote on HF 885 fell four short of the required 90 votes needed for passage.

Speaker Kelliher and the DFL leadership did not see this one coming. First the Speaker said she does not have the authority to rule on the constitutionality of a bill. Rep. Buesgens explained that he is not challenging the constitutionality of the bill, he was raising the point that she had ruled in error when she declared the bill to be re-passed. At that point, a flustered Speaker and and equally flustered DFL House Majority Leader Tony Sertich began stalling for time so they could consult with partisan and nonpartisan staff.

After a period of awkward silence, Sertich moved to set the time of adjournment for the next day, something usually done at the end of the day’s business just prior to the actual motion to adjourn. Several minutes elapsed between the Speaker counting the “ayes” and the “nays” on this standing vote. After several minutes of more awkward silence while DFL leadership continued to consult with staff Sertich moved to “continue the calendar” meaning he wanted to move on to the next item of business.

In the end, the Speaker refused to rule on Rep. Buesgens’ point of order and declared the bill to be re-passed. The Senate re-passed the bill on May 8th, 44-20. Fortunately for the integrity of the Constitution, and for the sake of the taxpayers of Minnesota, Governor Pawlenty vetoed HF 885 in its entirety on May 9th.

The entire meltdown can be seen on the Minnesota House of Representatives video archives. Go to this page on the Minnesota House website and scroll down to Friday May 8 2009 House Floor Session part 3 and click on “Watch this program”. After the video starts slide the bar to 04:51:05 to enjoy the show. The entire length of the meltdown lasts about 21 minutes.

This is the bill that House Democrats brought up for a veto override on May 17th, but on a vote of 85-49, came five votes short of the 90 votes required to override the Governor (two Democrats, Reps. Pelowski and Poppe, joined all 47 Republicans voting against the override).

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives for the Republican Caucus. Tihs blog is not paid for nor sponsored in any way by any legislative caucus, candidate, candidate’s committee or political party. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the administrator of this website and not necessarily those of any legislative caucus, candidate, candidate’s committee or political party.

Not Enough Space to Tell us of All the Tax Increases

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

 

Rep. Tim Faust (DFL - No Man's Land)
Rep. Tim Faust (DFL – No Man’s Land)

The commentary in the Kanabec County Times by Rep. Tim Faust (DFL – No Man’s Land) was his attempt to justify is vote for the enormous tax increase passed by the Minnesota House of Representatives a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, his commentary is barely a blip on the truth detection meter. Faust mentioned the “4th tier”, a new tax bracket with a higher rate that successful income earners and job providers would have to pay. He also mentioned a “slight increase” in tobacco and alcohol taxes that were in the bill. The truth detection meter registers this comment as  “horse hockey”, unless you consider a doubling of the gross receipts tax on alcohol, a doubling of the tax on a barrel of 3.2 beer and a 75 percent increase of a barrel of strong beer a “slight increase”.

As for the other tax increases in the bill he didn’t mention I can only surmise that there wasn’t enough column space to mention them all. Rep. Faust didn’t tell us that itemized deductions such as the mortgage deduction,the property tax deduction and deductions for charitable giving would go away if this bill becomes law. This bill also takes away the $25 tax credit for low income earners that was put into place just last year when the gas tax increase that Rep. Faust supported was passed.

Remember the sportsmen that worked so hard to get the Legacy Amendment for the outdoors passed? Rep. Faust didn’t. He voted to penalize them by taking away the sales tax exemption on the sale of used boats, snowmobiles and ATVs.

Even your teen or pre-teen is not immune to Rep. Faust’s tax increases, as iTune and other digital downloads would be taxed under the bill that he supported.

One of the most troubling provisions in the tax bill four our area is the repeal of the Job Opportunity and Building Zones (JOBZ) program. JOBZ has been an important job creation tool in Pine City, North Branch, Wyoming and many other communities in Greater Minnesota. To be clear, the bill doesn’t just call for an end to the program from this point forward. It calls for the state going back on its word to employers who are already in the program by repealing their income tax incentives for job creation.

Due to lack of space, Rep. Faust failed to give us the “rest of the story”. Or maybe it’s just due to him not wanting his constituents to know. Either way, the Truth Detector says, “Horse Hockey”.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives in the Republican Caucus. This blog is not paid for or sponsored in any way by any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee. Opinions expressed herein are those of the administrator of this website and not necessarily that of any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee.

Rep. Tim Faust (DFL – No Man’s Land) – What’s He Done for Jobs?

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

 

 Rep. Tim Faust (DFL - No Man's Land)

Rep. Tim Faust (DFL - No Man's Land)

In his quest to get elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, Tim Faust the candidate leveled many criticisms at his predecessor and opponent, Judy Soderstrom. One of the things he said publicly and repeatedly is that Rep. Soderstrom had not done enough to bring jobs to the area. He stated many times that it should be a state representative’s job to recruit businesses and bring jobs to the area.

Now that Rep. Faust has been in office nearly 2 1/2 years, I think it’s fair to ask what his track record on local jobs is. Can he point to one single new job that he has personally been responsible for? What businesses has he recruited to locate in our area? Although I haven’t looked at any specific stats, I think it’s also fair to point out that the job situation in House District 8B is much more dire than when Rep. Faust took office.

After watching a tape of the April 3, 2009 House Tax Committee hearing, it appears that Rep. Faust is doing the opposite of his stated intent as a candidate. In presenting a bill to the committee, he must have thought it was a good idea to run down his district in order to improve the chances of his bill getting included in the omnibus tax bill.

His bill would allow the economic development region in East Central Minnesota to grant tax increment financing (TIF) to tourism facilities.

In presenting the merits of his bill, Rep Faust talked about how his district is among the worst in the state for unemployment. He then explained that his bill is needed because his district is not really metro, and not benefiting from economic development going on in the suburbs. “We’re kind of in no man’s land,” he stated.

Just as an aside, Pine City city administrator Don Howard was on hand to testify in favor of Faust’s bill. In stark contrast to Faust’s depiction of the district, Howard talked about the natural resources and the fact that people flock to the region in the summer time.

Since this is the East Central Truth Detector, I will say here that Faust’s bill, if it becomes law, will be a good tool for cities in our area to use to attract businesses. Rep. Faust’s bill was included in the House Omnibus Tax Bill. Unfortunately, the Omnibus Tax Bill has $1.9 billion worth of tax increases, and includes elimination of the JOBZ tax incentives.  The Tax conference committee is meeting to negotiate the differences with the Senate’s $2.2 billion worth of tax increases. The final product is certain to meet its end with Governor Pawlenty’s veto pen.

My point here is that a state representative shouldn’t, and doesn’t need to, run down the area he represents in an effort to get a bill passed. Especially when, as a candidate, he promised to promote the area and recruit employers.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives in the Republican Caucus. This website is not paid for or sponsored in any way by any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee. Opinions expressed herein are those of the administrator of this website and not necessarily that of any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee.