Why two DFL House members bucked their colleagues to vote against tax cuts

Rep. Ryan Winkler
Rep. Ryan Winkler

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.’’

His problem?

“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.

Rep. Jason Metsa
Rep. Jason Metsa

“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.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 03/11/2014 - 10:26 am.

    Long view

    How refreshing to see Reps Winkler and Metsa take a comprehesive view towars reform and budgeting in Minnesota. We need more leaders like this!

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/11/2014 - 10:38 am.

    “make some additional investments”

    Where’s the fun in being an elected democrat if you can’t, you know, spend some money?

    • Submitted by jody rooney on 03/11/2014 - 12:52 pm.

      That’s right there is no need to spend any money on

      bridge replacement or maintenance, public building maintenance and rehabilitation. Accelerating construction schedules alone should result in millions in savings for the state. There is no need for investing infrastructure or reducing the debt burden of secondary ed students.

      As popular as a tax cut might be there needs to be longer term thinking and reform in general taxation and more importantly tax expenditures which cost the state a great deal of money and generally with the exception of the sales tax exemptions generally favor the higher income groups.

  3. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 03/11/2014 - 01:08 pm.

    We need a tax code adaptive to the economy without any real or imagined effects from extreme ideologies. If you want a government, you want taxes, period.

    The balanced budget amendment to the constitution was stupidity as it undermines government in a crippling way, just what the extreme right had in mind. It’s in there and although voters have been keeping other ridiculous stuff from Republicans out of the constitution, we’re stuck with this until the voters are given a chance to fix things.

    We can’t have deficits, so we need reserves adequate to run government and to allow stimulus to the economy to guide business development with global competition in mind, i.e., long range goals must be identified, the obvious ones being educating our kids and training our workforce for opportunities today and tomorrow, and steps taken to reach those goals.

    We need tax law where all revenue and spending is adjusted according to the goals set in the executive and legislative branches of government.

    Reps Winkler and Metsa are right in that massive tax cuts now do not serve the state well without addressing vital issues and hopefully the Senate will give us the reserves we need whether Governor Dayton wants them or not.

    Mr. Tester may choose to define Democrats through spending, but the truth is that if one can define political parties and their members through any one action, that action is governing. Republicans cannot govern and that has been true in Minnesota since Arne Carlson left office after which Republicans and IP folks have set us up for failure again and again.

    There can be no kowtowing to the architects of failure–doing so can only mire us in a lousy economy and a Republican legacy of unregulated greed driven excess–and until we shape state tax law in ways that leverage whatever federal revenue is there for Minnesota and raises and spends local revenue wisely, we will have the usual annual run of amateur theater at the capitol from both the left and the right.

    The Leg. and the Governor need to be figuratively slapped back into reality and they need to make their case to the people of Minnesota whose lives are not improved by ideologically driven theater at the capitol.

    Change our part of the world for the better: vote a Minnesota Republican out of office in November.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/12/2014 - 09:20 am.

      Governing

      Democrats and republicans define “governing” differently.

      Republicans believe that the role of government and consequently their roles as governors, is to protect your constitutional rights. They do that by funding law enforcement, courts, and other government functions that are directly involved with that mission for a free society that is populated by self-reliant individuals.

      Democrats believe that the role of government and consequently their roles as governors, is to “make your life better.” They do that by funding any and all things that anyone could possible want in a subservient society populated by people who look to government to take care of them.

      Taxes are used to fund the functions of government. Our disagreement on what the tax system should look like is due to our disagreement on the role of government.

      • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 03/12/2014 - 02:50 pm.

        Governing or Serving Their Masters?

        How about building and maintaining infrastructure like roads and bridges? A significant omission from Mr. Tester’s stated Republican mission, I think, as these are things that people have a right to expect and can’t have under Republican governance.

        Government makes life better for Republicans, Democrats and people of whatever party you have; but only Republicans think that once they and theirs make it, the ladders that helped them should be pulled up after them. They have this fantasy that they did it all alone or, for some unfortunates, that they did it at all, i.e., they see life as a crap shoot that as Americans and their constitutional rights are to play under some horrible Old Tasty Mint view of the Constitution and Bill of Rights for the chance of a win.

        No one can enjoy a safe and modestly comfortable life without a government that protects their interests as long as some Republican folks believe that they have a constitutional right to screw the rest of us, and they do along with a few other folks of different persuasions, even some Democratic Party folks.

        If Republicans got what they wanted, it would be the end of the modern era and not look much different than what Russia is trying to foist on the Ukraine.

        If Democrats got what they wanted? Not so bad for most folks, I think. That is the difference when you don’t think zero sum all of the time like the new Republicans and Putins and everyone else with that prehistoric mindset.

        Taxes? Again, they are a given, and if we let everyone in this country be as productive as they can be, they can be pretty damn low and with any reasoned governance, fair.

  4. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 03/12/2014 - 08:23 am.

    More of the Same Spending…or is it Stealing?

    So these guys want to spend taxpayer money. They just raised a record $2 billion to which the Republicans said they didn’t need. And those warnings are coming true. It’s bad enough that we are taxed into oblivion, but to demand as much more as they did and then want to keep it because it is ‘priorities’ to them is just sad. One of the above posts said it’s great leadership – that is about as wrong as you can get because it’s just legalized stealing. I dunno, that doesn’t appear as great leadership to me.

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