Last week, the Minnesota House passed a bill calling for $503 million in tax cuts.
Although Republicans wanted an even bigger cut, this was a popular measure with almost all members of the House. The final vote: 126 members favored the deal, and two opposed it.
Legislators cast their votes with a switch on their desks. A “yes’’ vote is recorded as a green light next to the legislator’s name on the tally boards in the chamber. A “no” vote is red.
Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, and Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, were the only red lights on an otherwise green board.
“It does feel odd to be a red vote in a sea of green,’’ Winkler admitted in an email. “But I didn’t think voting for the tax bill was the right thing to do.’’
“In short, some of the individual provisions in the tax bill are good things to pass, but the overall package was too large,’’ said Winkler. “We made big, long-term tax cut decisions in the late 1990s and they resulted in a decade of deficits.’’
Winkler believes that other serious issues needed discussing before racing to cut taxes.
“We have key priorities in early childhood education, the cost of higher education, the poverty wages paid to care providers, transit, roads, etc., that we have put off for 10 or more years. I think we should build our reserves, make some additional investments and pass a modest tax package.’’
Metsa, too, believed his House colleagues were hitting those green switches without enough thought.
“We need to think ahead,’’ Metsa said. “I want to see more property tax relief. I want us to work on areas of problems for the unemployed. We need to put more money into nursing homes, and in my area of the state, it’s hard to find a spot in a hospice facility. I just don’t think we took time to think ahead.’’
Like Winkler, Metsa said it is a little strange to be one of just two “no’’ votes on the legislative scoreboard.
“It’s not often you find yourself in that situation,’’ he said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to do what you think is right. But I’ll say this. I got a lot of feedback on that vote, and all of it was good.’’
What no one can know, though, is how the two DFLers would have decided had their votes been needed to pass the measure.
It’s easier to cast a “message vote” when the outcome is going to be lopsided.
Because this is an election year, most House members were eager to hit “green.” Gov. Mark Dayton wants even greater cuts.
To date, the Senate is moving slowly. Perhaps it’s only coincidence that senators don’t face election in the fall.