Hot with hockey analogies, GOP and DFL legislators already are skating in opposite directions

Hot with hockey analogies, GOP and DFL legislators already are skating in opposite directions

There were hockey analogies. There were rookie legislators, including “our Wayne Gretzky.” There were sweeping campaign-like statements.

But in a somewhat surprising development, the first two files introduced by the new Republican House leadership sounded more like the sort of concepts that might be discussed at a Chamber of Commerce roundtable discussion than the specific, budget-cutting proposals most might have expected.

In fact, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen noted that the priorities included in the first Republican legislative salvo are exactly the priorities forwarded by the chamber.

“There’s nothing to help 209,000 Minnesotans who are out of work find a job,” said Thissen.

What the House Republicans are offering up in their first crack at leadership are bills that would:

1. Streamline the regulation process in Minnesota.

 2. Create “priority-based” budgeting.

Kurt Zellers
Kurt Zellers

“We are fulfilling our commitment to Minnesotans,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers of these opening bills that he says will improve the job climate in Minnesota.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about these bills, which seemed a little on the squishy side, was the fact that they were introduced by two Republican freshmen, Rep. Dan Fabian, from the northwestern corner of the state, and Rep. King Banaian of St. Cloud.

Fabian, noted Zellers, is a longtime hockey coach. Banaian, a St. Cloud University economics prof, is the newcomer who was hailed as “our Wayne Gretzky” by Zellers.

A few minutes after receiving that praise, Banaian confessed that he can’t skate.

Neither of these bills, it should be noted, does anything to deal immediately with the big problem most believe this Legislature is dealing with: a $6.2 billion budget deficit.

But Zellers, House Majority Leader Matt Dean, Fabian and Banaian all said that these bills do, indirectly, take on the jobs issue in Minnesota.

The concept of the bills, it should be noted, was not attacked by DFLers. In fact, DFL minority leaders said that there may be merit to both of these bills. And, during the campaign, Gov. Mark Dayton seemed to be supportive of some of what Republicans are proposing.

Fabian, who will travel with the governor to northwestern Minnesota on Tuesday, is the legislator whose name is on the streamlining bill.

Under House File 1, the Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources would establish “a goal” of issuing permits within 150 days to new and expanding businesses.

Fabian says that goal is important to keeping businesses in Minnesota. His bill also would contain other streamlining factors, including a provision that seemingly would not allow Minnesota to have more stringent air, water and hazardous waste requirements than those required by the federal requirements or border states.

Banaian’s bill on priority budgeting is huge. Over a 10-year period, every mandate and rule of every state agency would be reviewed by the legislative auditor and, ultimately, the Legislature. The idea is noble: Get rid of all unnecessary mandates and rules.

“Priority-based budgeting aligns spending to performance,” Banian said. “It focuses on service level and results, not solely on individual agency or activity. We will budget for the state like Minnesota familes do: Know our income, set priorities and spend accordingly rather than spending and then seeking more money to cover it.”

Theoretically, under the Banian plan, agencies would be required not only to justify their existence but also the existence of each of their rules.

“No doubt it’s a lot of work,” the prof said, “but it’s what we owe the people of Minnesota.”

 Thissen said the Banian plan is a nice idea but constitutes legislative overkill. Thissen pointed to the Department of Corrections. The state, he said, is not going to do away with prisons, so why should the state make the department justify its existence.

But the big problem DFLers saw with the two bills is that they do nothing immediately to help create jobs or take on the budget deficit.

Overall, however, the DFLers had a hard time getting too worked up over the Republican proposals for the House.

In fact, Rep. Tom Rukavina spent his time criticizing one of the Senate priorities announced earlier in the day by the new Republican majority, a priority to eliminate the corporate income tax.

That proposal, said Rukavina, does nothing to help save cash-starved “ma-and-pa businesses in Minnesota.” And there’s no proof that eliminating the corporate income tax will “create a single job,” he said.

DFLers immediately want to talk about a bonding bill, which, they say, is the fastest way to get people back to work.

But Zellers insisted that the first two House Files are about jobs.

“They will make Minnesota a better place to do business.” And that, he says, ultimately will create more jobs.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by David Willard on 01/10/2011 - 06:27 pm.

    Zero out every expenditure EVERY YEAR and make the entities prove they will spend their monies efficiently. Enough of this garbage about an expected ten percent increase turning into an eight percent increase being called a cut. How lazy can the Strib, MinnPost and every other Progressyve “journalist” be who cannot see an increase is an increase?

  2. Submitted by James Hamilton on 01/10/2011 - 06:49 pm.

    Eliminating corporate taxes won’t make an unprofitable business profitable.

    It will increase the profits of the profitable.

    To assume that those additional profits will result in additional jobs – in Minnesota – requires that we make too many other assumptions to count, including:

    That there is a demand for more of that company’s goods or services, requiring new hires;

    That the money will not be used to pay dividends;

    That the money will not be used to increase management compensation;

    That the money will not be used to retire debt; and

    That the money will not be used to acquire other, existing businesses, here or elsewhere.

    Of course, eliminating corporate taxes also means that those living in other states and investing in publicly held Minnesota corporations will not pay anything toward the cost of providing a suitable workforce.

    It’s a con, folks. One that a majority of the people in this state appear eager to fall for.

  3. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 01/10/2011 - 06:59 pm.

    I would have thought that the minority party would know that it is the odd-numbered years that are usually used for bonding bills.

    It is not surprising at all that freshman representatives introduced some of the first bills. Typically, freshman have their names all over bills as sponsors so that after two years they can point to all the legislation that they have authored or co-sponsored.

    As for the job creating value of the bills, both parties have different ideas as to what creates jobs. The Republicans get a chance to try theirs now.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/10/2011 - 10:10 pm.

    Mr. Hamilton (#2) wins the debate on this so far. Cash in corporate coffers from lower taxes is – like cash in anyone else’s pocket – fungible. It can be used for any number of purposes, none of which necessarily involve the creation of new jobs.

    It also means – and I find this an interesting blind spot in Republican thinking – that corporations are not paying their fair share of the state’s obligations toward providing and maintaining the infrastructure – roads, bridges, educational institutions – that allow them to do business in the first place. If, as the Supreme Court has said in the Citizens United verdict, corporations are legally people, then why should a corporate person – one who is specifically permitted to spend many thousands of dollars as a form of “speech” to influence an election – be exempted from the same sort of fiscal obligation that every other “person” of majority age in the state is required to assume?

    Lower corporate income taxes means less money to the state for, say, roads, and since roads have to be provided and maintained in our automobile-based culture, less money to build and maintain them from corporations means that proportionally more money has to come from somewhere else. If it’s not coming from corporations, that money is coming from my pocket and yours.

  5. Submitted by Rod Loper on 01/11/2011 - 08:01 am.

    As I have said elsewhere, giving agencies a 150 day deadline to write a permit for a project regardless of scope (mining near the BWCA? New
    nuke on the Mississipi? New landfill for 3M?)while
    cutting employees 15% betrays their agenda.

  6. Submitted by Ray Aune on 01/11/2011 - 12:59 pm.

    The addendum about ‘no law more stringent than that of the border states’ seems rather disturbing to me, but that may be my perception of South Dakota as ‘Cold Arizona’ to our ‘Cold Texas’.

  7. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 01/12/2011 - 10:01 am.

    “We will budget for the state as families do…”

    Family breakwinners make as much money as they can in order to afford what the family needs and to save for future expected or emergency needs or vacations.

    Governments, on the other hand, must budget to meet the needs of their citizens. When more citizens are elderly or disabled, when more suffer from unemployment, hunger, illness and homelessness, helping them survive is the task of government. When the infrastructure that sustains both citizens and corporations is frayed, it falls to government to fix it. When the population of school-aged children rises and more suffer from learning disabilities, only government can meet those financial needs.

    Trickle down from over-fed corporations AND kabillionaires made rich by tax cut after tax cut has not worked since Reagan was in office and will not work in Minnesota. It leads only to want and suffering.

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