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What surveyed voters are telling Minnesota lawmakers

Chuck Slocum

So far this year, the State Capitol political rhetoric has drawn some hard lines between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and his legislative allies and majority Republicans who control the House and Senate.

According to the state constitution, lawmakers must wind up their work by May 21.  Many insiders are talking of an April adjournment, however.  New legislative district lines have resulted in many on both sides of the aisle in support of an earlier adjournment to attend to local electioneering.

Ever so carefully, GOP and DFL lawmakers are surveying attitudes of voters who are bracing for the 2012 elections more than a half year away.  

Be careful about taxes

Here is what many Minnesota voters being surveyed, lawmakers and their staffs have confirmed, are saying to them:

  • Minnesota is still a pretty good state in which to live and work, but be careful about increasing taxes and growing the state budget as that’s where the disagreements can be profound.
  • Income and property taxes are the first two in line for “reforming,” with the sales tax more widely accepted; a slim majority in most surveys identify with “no new taxes” under any circumstances. 
  • With the surplus now available, lawmakers should begin to repay the K-12 education funding shifts used to balance the last couple of state budgets.
  • Current roadways and bridges should have priority for the transportation dollar, over commuter and light-rail projects under various stages of development.
  • A 2012 bonding proposal to support construction is backed by the public, but there is no clear direction on the exact amount to be spent and the funded priorities, thus providing little direction to divided policymakers on this subject.
  • Proposed voter ID and right-to-work constitutional amendments appear to have majority support but with little voter “passion” behind them. (By ignoring the issues on the November ballot, a voter’s choice is recorded as a “no” vote.)
  • There is strong interest, even if not an outright majority, in a new Vikings stadium, especially if the owners and fans who buy the tickets and merchandise pay the freight, but no agreement regarding various additional taxes.
  • Over half agree that the new federal health-care law now being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, ought to be redesigned.

Three more GOP goals

Majority Republicans say they want to achieve at least three more goals prior to adjournment:  the K-12 shift payback vetoed by Dayton, an omnibus tax bill, and a bonding package totaling around $500 million.  Governor Dayton would spend $275 million more in bonding to “get the state back to work.”

I think the past is prologue to the future. The Minnesota Legislature does not often go home early through “sine die” adjournment.  The Legislature has adjourned in mid-May or later in each of the last 13 consecutive sessions and, I believe, will do so again.

Dayton; Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, GOP-Rochester; and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, GOP-Maple Grove, have their work as leaders being put to the test over the next weeks, to be sure.

Chuck Slocum (Chuck@WillistonGroup.Com) is president of The Williston Group, a 22-year-old management consulting organization.  A former state Senate staffer, he has worked on public-policy issues in various professional assignments.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/10/2012 - 07:59 am.

    Am i missing something?

    This is thinly veiled support for the Republican agenda, and big business priorities. There is NO current publicly supported plan to build a Vikings stadium with user and owner money, the public remains apposed to the plan currently being considered, which is why referendums need to be bypassed. And where are the “surveys” behind these conclusions?

  2. Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/10/2012 - 08:44 am.

    Survey information is questionable

    If a piece is going to include phrases like “slim majority” and cite the results of “most surveys”, then it is the responsible thing to do to provide information on who conducted the survey, what their sampling methodology was, who they surveyed, and preferably a copy of the wording of the questions as posed.

    As it is, a brief Google search on Mr. Slocum turned this up:

    I know Mr. Slocum made no claim to being non-biased in his piece, however, the wording he chose was carefully designed to create the impression of non-bias.

    In my reading of this piece, nothing could be further from the truth.

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/10/2012 - 10:22 am.

    I Agree with the First Two Posters

    When Mr. Slocum claims, “Here is what many Minnesota voters being surveyed, lawmakers and their staffs have confirmed, are saying to them,” but then doesn’t quote from any such surveys, nor name the lawmakers and/or staff members who have “confirmed” his claims,…

    what he’s really saying is nothing more nor less than,

    “Here’s what I want you to believe.”

    He’s stating his own opinions and/or acting as a mouthpiece for the Republican Party while trying desperately to give the appearance of being someone with balanced, unbiased, inside knowledge quoting authoritative and objective sources.

    Perhaps Mr. Slocum even believes the truth of what he claims, but considering the dishonesty of his entire approach, I can only assume that the claims he makes are highly questionable; nothing more nor less than outright falsehoods he’s hoping to peddle as truth.

    He’s either deluding himself, or hoping to mislead others to the point of delusion.

  4. Submitted by Mike Downing on 04/10/2012 - 11:07 am.

    Property Tax Reform

    The comments above appear to be ideologically driven and not fact driven. Mr. Slocum appears to have summarized the prevailing opinion of the majority of Minnesotans that I talk with in the Twin Cities.

    I suggest Mr Slocum and MinnPost address the most regressive and unfair tax that we have in MN, namely property taxes. Our property tax system is a holdover from the agrarian society of 100-200 years ago. An era where land produced an income and therefore was taxable. Fast forward to today and urban land does not produce an income, with the exception of commercial property and rental property, and therefore should not be taxed in the same manner as 100-200 years ago.

    The only fair and equitable way to produce the income required for local government, schools, etc. is a local income tax.

  5. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 04/10/2012 - 01:25 pm.

    I’m glad that I’m not imagining things

    I agree with Udstrand, Berg, and Kapphahn. I see no evidence for these “truths.” As a matter of fact, as I was reading them, I literally went “huh?” So, I also looked up Mr. Slocum. Ahhh. That explains it. This is propaganda disguised as a reasoned analysis of (probably fictitious or GOP-funded) surveys. C’mon. The wool’s not thick enough.

  6. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/10/2012 - 06:37 pm.

    There are many ways to slant a survey

    One is the push poll, in which the pollster asks leading questions in order to change the mind of the person they’re polling. When I encounter such pollsters, I tell them that I don’t respond to push polls and hang up.

    Another is the wording of the question. “Do you think that the taxpayers should fund a new Vikings stadium?” would yield one answer, but “The Vikings have talked about leaving if they don’t get a new stadium. Do you think the Vikings should leave?” would yield another.

    One can also slant a poll by choosing whom to poll. The results in this article sound as if polling was focused on residents of the outer suburbs.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/10/2012 - 09:51 pm.

      This piece didn’t say anything about who was polled . . . .

      if anyone actually was. Without the cites, who’s to know?

      I don’t think it’s worth granting this piece even the dignity of speculation.

      All this piece should be seen as is several column-inches of Republican truthiness.

      We should be glad no trees gave their lives for this to be printed.

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