You thought things were tough in Minnesota now? It’s gonna get tougher.
We’re at war with South Dakota.
Kurt Zellers, speaker of the Minnesota House, made that startling announcement at an otherwise bland news conference this morning at the state Capitol.
Zellers noted that South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, up until now an unknown figure, has joined with the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce in inviting Minnesota businesses to move across the border to a land free of taxes, regulations and high wages.
“The governor is saying, ‘Come over here,’ ” said Zellers. “This is war.”
Zellers does think we can beat South Dakota, but the point is, he said “we have to be competitive with everybody.”
Wisconsin, for example, is trying to take our businesses.
“They’ve got billboards up,” Zellers said.
He also warned that “we’d better watch out for Michigan and Ohio.”
How do we beat all these foes?
Republicans launching effort with emphasis on ‘listening’
Republican House members are starting by “launching” what they call the Reform 2.0 campaign.
That was the main reason for this press conference. The 2.0 campaign will feature GOP legislators going about the state, listening to people about ways government can reform its practices.
“Our state’s economic climate and fiscal future rely on the reforms we are able to make today,” Zellers said.
This Reform 2.0 campaign is supposed to be different from the typical political “listening tour.”
The GOP legislators say they want “to listen to everybody who has a good idea.” DFLers, Greens, people at their kitchen tables and, of course, business leaders all will be asked to make reform suggestions.
Zellers and House Majority Leader Matt Dean explained that Republicans — with a little help from Gov. Mark Dayton — already accomplished Reform 1.0 during the legislative session.
A lot of people probably missed out on those reforms, because so much attention was focused on the disastrous session that ended in a government shutdown.
Refreshing the message
As much as they say they want to listen to all sorts of ideas, it sounds as if the GOP now is using “reform” as a new way of saying they want to cut regulation, cut the size of government and stop “the increasing” in taxes, even though it’s been a long time since there have been any increases in taxes at either the state or federal level.
“If you like more spending, vote for President Obama,” Zellers said at one point.
For all the talk of reform — and war with South Dakota — and for all the talk of listening to all people, it sounds as if Repubs are going to listen to the same people they’ve been listening to for years.
“We’ve talked about reform for many years,” said the reform guru of the GOP, Rep. Keith Downey of Edina. “I know the buzzword has been around for a long time.”
So what’s different now?
“We’re going to honor the common sense of most Minnesotans,” Downey said.
And what does that mean?
He told of a colleague who was talking to an 80-year-old fellow.
“The advice was to quit spending money you don’t have — separate your needs from your wants,” Downey said.
That sounds like the same sage advice Republicans have been hearing “from Main Street Minnesota” for years. The difficulty, of course, is that one person’s want is another person’s need.
The idea of coming up with reform as the message of the day appears to be a way to tidy up the old No New Taxes message.
Zellers admitted that Minnesotans are tired of the old taxes debate, which led to the shutdown.
The Republicans did give Dayton, who is embarking on his own listening trips around the state, a few pats on the back for being willing to accept some reforms.
Zellers even said that reform is “not a partisan idea.”
That he was surrounded by a group of Republican freshman did, however, seem a little partisan.
Why no DFLers?
“In a lot of cases, our friends on the other side of the aisle aren’t interested in reform,” Zellers said. “The status quo is their best friend.”
A ’60s jalopy
Their ideas, the speaker said, are ancient, from the 1960s.
“We have a 1960s jalopy,” said Zellers of the government vehicle. “It practically needs a crank to get it going.”
But Reform 2.0, he believes, will change all of that. Minnesota won’t be going to war with South Dakota in a car that needs a crank, or even a classic old Mustang.
The GOP is going to find the things in government “that have outlived their usefulness” and reform them.
Along the way, Republican legislators might come up with an amendment to place on the 2012 ballot that would require the Legislature to have a super-majority to pass any taxes.
That’s an idea being floated by Rep. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa.
Drazkowski already has been out listening to people.
“I don’t hear anyone asking to raise taxes,” he said.
The other GOPers nodded their heads solemnly.
Reform 2.0 is on its way. There’ll be listening, a web page, a Twitter account and, of course, more listening at the State Fair.
Yes, Minnesotans are tired of hearing politicians blather on, Zellers admitted. It’s time for pols to listen to the ideas of the people.
“The good Lord gave us two ears, one mouth,” he explained of all this listening.
Reform is on the way the GOPers said over and over.
Look out, South Dakota.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.