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Candidate Kohls one-ups ‘no new taxes’ pledge by seeking $2B state budget cut

Many thought Gov. Tim Pawlenty tied his own hands before he ever took office by taking the “no new taxes” pledge. That vow, though, looks pretty flexible, compared with the one Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Kohls is making these days.

The state representative from Victoria today vowed — in Rochester, St. Paul and Duluth — to cut back the state budget to the 2004-05 level, a drop of $2 billion from the current budget, which is smaller than its predecessor.

Additionally, Kohls said he would cut taxes for all individuals and businesses in the state.

Asked where the cuts would come from to make his pledge doable, Kohls said, “A lot will happen in the next 18 months. It would be imprudent to say, ‘I’ll reduce this by ‘x’ and this by ‘y.’ ”

But if it’s imprudent to say where he’ll cut, isn’t it just as imprudent to pledge to roll back the size of government to 2004-05 levels?

“It’s incredibly responsible to say, ‘This is the amount of government Minnesota can afford.’ ”
Kohls, one of nine conservatives running for governor, said that state government must prioritize, “just like families and businesses have to.”

His priorities, he said, are education, public safety and roads and bridges. Government he said “must do” some things. But other things, such as parks, “are nice.”

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by dan buechler on 09/22/2009 - 02:53 pm.

    Which is great to say if you have your own lake cabin etc. Paul Kohls is for a fatter Minnesota population lets just stay inside.

  2. Submitted by John Olson on 09/22/2009 - 03:32 pm.

    It will be interesting to hear from Rep. Kohls on how he plans to control health care spending that is paid for with state tax dollars. Until that thorny issue gets addressed, all the slicing and dicing in the world isn’t going to make that huge of a difference.

  3. Submitted by Scott Chambers on 09/22/2009 - 04:05 pm.

    ‘This is the amount of government Minnesota can afford.’ That seems to be the default perspective of conservatives — to talk first about the means (taxes, budgets) instead of talking first about the ends (quality of life). The first conversation should be about what kind of state and society we want to be. THEN we should talk about how to get there.

    That’s how businesses do it. And considering how conservatives talk about how government should be run more like a business, I’m amazed that they haven’t picked up on this inconsistency.

  4. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 09/23/2009 - 01:29 am.

    It is hard to imagine Minnesotans wanting to support the mean policies Kohls is likely to advocate for cutting medical costs borne by state government. I am not interested in supporting such mean policies but I do understand why the Democrats need to become more frugal.

    Most Minnesotans do not mind paying for government services that contribute to the common good or that take care of the vulnerable, while Democrats support way too much spending that is resented by Joe Sixpack. Probably the most irritating are spending for a variety of arts programs and expensive sporting facilities in public schools. Civil servants are also held in low regard by many members of the public–lazy, fat, slothful are kinder adjectives one hears.

    If the Democrats want to win big, they need to adopt a stance of both fiscal and social responsibility. Democrats should start talking about reform. Such talk would knock the wind out of the Republicans.

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/23/2009 - 07:24 am.

    Boy does that sound familiar.. The governor made a similar campaign promise to cut the “billions and billions in wasted state spending”. Even with unallotment the governor did not make the cuts he so often spoke about. Does that lead one to believe that the “billions and billions of wasted state spending” are not all that easily found. Or does it require a level of leadership that has been absent in the process.

  6. Submitted by Colin Lee on 09/23/2009 - 12:10 pm.

    Someone needs to ask Kohls what he proposes we should do about the 8% of the state budget that goes to private health insurance exclusively for K-12 teachers. That percentage is expected to double within only a few years. He should keep in mind that numerous teachers in less wealthy districts are already underinsured with $2,000 deductible cafeteria-style policies that make it very difficult for our teachers to afford care when surrounded by sick children and when underpaid because of district budget cuts caused by state cost shifts. Most teachers cannot afford to buy their own worthwhile insurance.

    Altogether, health care costs forty percent of Minnesota’s budget today and is increasing in cost at three times the rate of inflation. Cutting those expenses without proposing a viable alternate would devastate our small businesses and therefore dramatically cut state revenue from taxes.

    At the present rate of health inflation with a $7 billion projected deficit, proposing tax cuts with a balanced budget without solving the health care crisis is like an election year promise to carry an eighteen wheeler on your shoulders while walking across the Atlantic Ocean. If he refuses to address these basic and obvious questions, he should be laughed out of the race as the crackpot he most likely is.

  7. Submitted by Howard Miller on 09/23/2009 - 10:11 pm.

    Why cut just 2 billion? Why stop at becoming a cold Mississippi? Why not shoot for 3d world public services, cut universal education, close public schools entirely, preschools on up through the U of M. Close courts, police and fire services, prisons, parks, let citizens fend for themselves. That will surely cost virtually zero in state tax, right? If the overriding goal is the lowest tax burden …

  8. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/24/2009 - 12:24 pm.

    Rebecca (#4) Spending on the arts and physical education/sports for schools IS education.

    Recent research shows that the ability to focus and to maintain attention is enhanced by the study and practice of any art (music, painting, dance, et cetera).

    And I think we all know that sports helps kids learn how to work with others toward common goals and that all physical activity enhances the ability to learn by assuring a healthy body that nourishes its brain and varies its activities.

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