The echoes of old fights filled the state Capitol this morning as DFL legislative leaders proposed a budget-balancing plan that includes tax increases and the Republican leaders moaned and groaned and said, “No chance.”
Heard it all before?
And now you’re going to hear it for the final days of this legislative session.
Compromise? Forget it. Compromise would get in the way of personal political ambitions and sound bites.
Start with the DFL proposal that that was announced at a news conference this morning to deal with the state’s $2.9 billion deficit.
That plan would call for the creation of a “fourth tier” in Minnesota’s income tax code. Under the plan, married couples with taxable incomes of $200,000 or more would pay at a 9.15 percent rate. Currently, top income earners in the state pay at a 7.85 rate.
The plan, according to Sen. Tom Bakk, head of the tax committee, would “increase the fairness of our revenue system.”
Revenue from that fourth tier would be used to pay back K-12 budget money being “borrowed.”
Chances of passage?
For eight years, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he will oppose tax increases. And minority leaders in the House and Senate said this morning that there is “no chance” any members of their caucus will vote to override a veto that surely will be slapped all over the DFL plan.
“This is four-day old reheated hotdish,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers. “It doesn’t get any better.”
One by one, Republican leaders — including the party’s endorsed gubernatorial candidate, Rep. Tom Emmer — disparaged the DFL plan, disparaged DFLers and disparaged taxes.
One by one, those leaders described those who would be affected by the DFLers’ fourth tax tier as “small business owners,” “young, hard-working couples” and “job creators.”
“Déjà vu,” said Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem in describing the DFL plan. “Here’s their new idea: tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich.”
Never have Republican leaders seemed so confident in their opposition to the DFL majority.
Meantime, DFL leaders presented their proposal as a pure compromise, as well as a way out of the state’s budget woes over the long term. They have accepted 85 percent of the governor’s plan for balancing the budget, they said. The fourth-tax tier is only 15 per cent of the overall solution to turning red ink black.
Indeed, the DFL does incorporate many of the things Pawlenty has demanded. It incorporates many of the items he unallotted last spring. The courts, of course, ruled that he overstepped his executive bounds in the way he used unallotment.
In its proposal, the DFL accepts the governor’s “borrowing” of more than $1 billion from K-12 funding. (Legislators have argued that under Pawlenty’s plan, there was no way to pay back the money being borrowed. Their proposal does have a payback plan.) Many other smaller Pawlenty shifts and cuts are accepted by DFLers.
They were pleading with Republicans to see the compromises DFLers claim they are willing to make.
If the DFL plan falls to a Pawlenty veto, Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller vows that Republicans will get their chance to vote on a “cuts-only” budget plan.
“To my friends on the other side of the aisle,” said House Majority Leader Tony Sertich in a more conciliatory tone, “we need to get away from sound bites. We can say, ‘No new taxes’ until we’re blue in the face and that doesn’t solve anything.”
Republicans, who were in the back of the room as Sertich made his plea, weren’t impressed.
They blasted away with sound bite after sound bite.
What of compromise? Is there any compromise in Republican opposition to tax increases?
“No,” said Senjem.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.