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Dayton’s tax-the-rich plan isn’t as radical as Walker’s rights rejection

Star Tribune editorial page editor Scott Gillespie Friday links Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Minnesota Gov.

Star Tribune editorial page editor Scott Gillespie Friday links Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton as class warriors, albeit at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.

Fundamentally, Gillespie likens Walker’s demolition of public-worker collective bargaining rights to Dayton’s upper-income tax hikes.

“Both leaders are steadfastly appeasing one end of the political spectrum while infuriating the other,” Gillespie writes — an observation that’s hard to argue with.

Gillespie concludes that “moderate Minnesotans … have more reason to be hopeful” because Dayton is a more mature figure and more likely to compromise given Minnesota’s divided state government.

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That latter point may be optimistic — check back in July to see if the state is open for business and our rotunda clear of protestors — but not implausible.

However, there’s something insidious in Gillespie’s larger equivalency: that upper-income hikes are as “immoderate” as eliminating collective-bargaining rights.

The Star Tribune’s own research suggests this isn’t so. In September, the Strib’s Minnesota Poll found “Over 60 percent of Minnesotans favor Dayton’s plan to raise taxes on top earners.”

A figure that high surely included a lot of moderates. And at the time, Dayton had proposed a 10.9 percent top rate, a hair below the 10.95 percent now in his budget.

Meanwhile, even the GOP-friendly Rasmussen survey showed that the public opposes Walker’s rights-rejection 52 percent to 39; a New York Times-CBS poll has it 60-33. 

Assuming Gillespie finds his employer’s poll credible, upper-income tax hikes don’t deserve to be marginalized. I’m not suggesting they’re above criticism (Gillespie’s editorial board has provided plenty) or that they are politically achievable. The Minnesota Senate rejected a bastardized version of Dayton’s plan Thursday, but even without the GOP game-playing, I’d bet several DFLers would defect in a credible test. 

Perhaps the Senate vote shows the public really doesn’t support taxing the rich more. To be fair, a SurveyUSA poll taken two weeks after the Strib’s showed all-cuts more popular. But remember, both polls did well this cycle and even SUSA showed upper-income hikes the preferred tax to raise.

It’s also possible that all-cuts sentiment is about to peak. Anyone with a calculator can estimate how Dayton’s tax plan hits them, but Republicans haven’t yet shown exactly where $5.03 billion in cuts will land. When they do, Dayton’s plan — which, by the way, contains $750 million in permanent spending cuts — may look a lot more reasonable.