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Mainstream consensus builds for budget sanity, tax fairness

Date Published: 05/19/2011

Author: Dane Smith, President

ST. PAUL LEGAL LEDGER CAPITOL REPORT

An entertaining skit now on YouTube portrays your classic Minnesota church ladies slamming down the coffee and clucking around the table about their charitable efforts to help children and elderly folks in their congregation.

And then the chatter turns a little dark, toward a grave realization that their charity won’t be nearly enough for the compelling needs of the larger community to fix potholes, deliver education and health care, or to pay for Minnesota’s $5 billion revenue shortfall.

That video statement, by the nonprofit group A Minnesota Without Poverty, is one of dozens of tactics employed by a broad range of Minnesotans to make the case that yet another cuts-only budget-balancing solution is neither a solution, nor balanced.

A clear majority of Minnesotans already agree that reasonable tax increases have to be part of the budget fix. The Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll last weekend showed that an overwhelming 63 percent favor a mix of cuts and taxes, and only 27 percent favor a cuts-only approach.

But the stalemate continues and probably will last until at least the end of June. And so the pressure is on to get the Legislature’s majorities to compromise with Gov. Mark Dayton for at least some revenue increases, in a state where the official Price of Government and total effective tax rates are headed for all-time lows. The anti-tax side has put up some big slick broadcast media ad buys and staged its perennial government-bashing rally. But that side is losing this battle for hearts and minds, and here’s a roundup of some of the more compelling, entertaining or just plain interesting ways that the common-sense majority is fighting and winning its case.

Resistance to tax increases is natural and eternal. And we are all economic animals, wanting to pay as little as possible in return for as much as possible. But at some point, we have to grow up and pay our bills, including a reasonable price for some of the best government the world has ever known.

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A version of this column originally appeared in the St. Paul Legal Ledger Capitol Report on Thursday, May 19, 2011.

Dane Smith is the president of Growth & Justice, a progressive public policy organization that promotes statewide economic growth for Minnesota through smarter public investments in human capital and infrastructure.


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