An ad campaign by the Republican Party of Minnesota urging the Legislature to return the state’s entire $1.9 billion surplus to taxpayers definitely struck a nerve with DFL Party Chair Ken Martin.
In response to a Republican news conference outlining the “Give it Back” campaign, Martin called the campaign, “the height of hypocrisy…. [Republican Party chair] Keith Downey has taken a position that is wildly different than the highest ranking Republican in the state.”
Martin was referring to Speaker of House Kurt Daudt’s comments that nursing homes and schools should be high on the receiving end of some of that surplus, though Daudt has also indicated that at least half of that surplus and “probably a lot more than that” should be targeted to tax relief.
That didn’t stop Martin from insisting that the GOP party and Downey were acting like “party bosses trying to pull the strings and call the shots,” and enforcing “ideological purity.”
Then it was Martin’s turn to spin party ideology, describing Republican spending priorities as, “continued disinvestment in education, transportation.”
“We actually started to turn the corner on these critical areas,” he said. “I’m outraged because I care about seeing something happen that actually benefits the people of this state.”
For his part, Downey maintains the campaign is “educational” in nature and not an end-run to dictate legislative policy. But Downey is also treading where former party chair Tony Sutton made enemies among Republican legislators.
In 2011, Sutton demanded that Republicans oppose any new means of revenue, like gambling, that was intended to fund a new Vikings stadium. Many Republican lawmakers were already on board with gambling expansion efforts and responded coolly to Sutton’s implied threats.
Downey said it would be up to legislators to decide the amount and nature of any tax cuts, adding that, “the people of Minnesota don’t really know. Do they really know that that the two billion dollar tax increase [enacted in 2013] has now resulted in a two billion dollar surplus?”
The GOP ad, which cost the party $150,000, will run one week on cable, broadcast and Internet outlets.
Despite Martin’s protest that the Republicans should not be entering this arena of debate, he didn’t rule out that the DFL would reply in kind.