Pols apparently believe that if you say the same things often enough, you’ll sway the doubters to your side.
And so it was at the second meeting of the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy. At Tuesday’s session, Republicans again said that raising taxes on the highest earners would be a “job killer,” and DFLers again countered that a combination of raising taxes and making cuts is the best way to balance the budget.
No, it isn’t!
Yes, it is!!
Minnesota’s budget in the last biennium was $34 billion.
No, it wasn’t!
Yes, it was!!
Back and forth it went.
We’re closing in on July 1, the shutdown date, but it still sounds like January at the Capitol.
Perhaps, if both sides repeat their positions a few more times, everything will get resolved.
Ortman grills Revenue Commissioner Frans
Oh, there was some progress Tuesday afternoon for the second gathering of this august body. This time, two of Gov. Mark Dayton’s commissioners, Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter and Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans, did attend. (Last week, they were ordered by Dayton not to attend the first dog-and-pony show.)
For a while, Frans must have wondered why he did come. A rookie at this commissioner business, he found himself the target of Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, who appeared to be having a very bad day.
Without so much as a “How you doin’, Commissioner?” Ortman tore into Frans.
“Are you here on a partisan basis?” Ortman said contemptuously.
“I accepted the job on behalf of all Minnesotans and for Gov. Dayton,” Frans replied tentatively. He stumbled on, saying he wants to “represent the department in a ways that’s honest and fair.”
Ortman was unimpressed. She continued to bash poor Frans, who didn’t help himself by stumbling about when he could have gotten off the hook simply by noting that he serves at the pleasure of the governor.
He didn’t. So Ortman slapped him around, just for the sheer joy of it.
“If you’re not partisan, why weren’t you here last Thursday? … I’m very concerned you weren’t here. … If you were nonpartisan, you would have been here.”
Eventually, Sen. Majority Leader Amy Koch got tired of watching Frans sweat and somehow managed to get attention directed elsewhere.
But aside from one little glimmer of hope, there was nothing that looked like progress in this session.
That glimmer came when Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, who was pounding on Frans for not having more statistics about the impact of a fourth tax tier on the wealthiest. Would they leave the state? Find tax shelters?
Republicans frequently asked that question Tuesday.
Frans kept trying to answer the question of what those in the fourth tier might do in case of a tax increase.
“There haven’t been thorough studies done on that,” he said at one point. “We don’t have data on that,” he said at another.
He did say that it appears that high taxes are only one part of “a complex” set of reasons wealthy people choose to live in one region over another.
But back to that glimmer.
Lanning said something that hinted that if the Department of Revenue had better data, maybe Republicans could find a way to “free up” more revenue.
Hints of “new revenue”?
Think about that: Republicans thinking about freeing up more revenue. Is that being whispered in the back rooms?
Although Lanning wasn’t clear, Frans jumped all over the chance to make some revenue points.
“He [Dayton] is clearly looking for ways to get this $1.8 billion in revenue,” Frans said. “If you want to come up with ideas [other than a fourth tier], I’ll write them down and make sure he sees them.”
So would some new revenue, any new revenue, break the logjam? Racinos, a downtown Minneapolis casino, a new liquor-by-the-drink fee? Is there an answer?
In fact, after the little Lanning-Frans exchange, it was back to business as usual.
Republicans beat up on Dayton for not being specific in in his May 16 compromise proposal about what cuts he’d make when he called for $1.8 billion in new revenue and $1.8 billion in cuts.
Schowalter kept trying to say that Dayton was offering “a framework” for a settlement.
“I can’t give you details on proposals that don’t exist,” Schowalter said.
But the Republicans wanted details. They wanted the people of Minnesota and the governor and the DFLers in the Legislature to understand the righteousness of their positions.
So they repeated them over and over and over again.
Sen. Geoff Michel, assistant majority leader, tried again. The governor’s plan, a tax increase, “is bad for business,” he said.
A DFLer suggested that a more progressive tax system actually might be fair.
“I don’t think that 201 legislators and one governor sitting in St. Paul can define fair,” said Michel.
And the clock kept ticking toward July 1.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.