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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Somewhere in Minnesota

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 04/06/07 01:25

By Christopher Truscott

Somewhere in Minnesota there's a guy who just finished a long day at work.

Driving home, he's worried about pulling together his son's college tuition for next year.

He pays more in property taxes than he ever has before, yet his local school board is considering cuts to the music program in which his daughter has excelled since starting high school two years ago.

The school system isn't what it used to be, and the only thing saving it from a worse fate is the property tax levy that just passed three years ago and is set to expire in two years. Student-teacher ratios are up, classroom aide positions have been cut, and programs to help those who need it the most have been gutted.

He worries about what will happen when his third child, now in elementary school, reaches high school.

Health care premiums are eating up a bigger chunk of his paycheck and he's struggling to make ends meet. On top of that, there are rumors that his job may be moved overseas. He wonders what will happen to health care for his family if that dreadful gossip becomes reality.

He makes $30,000 a year and his wife brings in another $20,000. They're the typical Minnesota family.

As he gets closer to home, Gov. Tim Pawlenty comes on the radio and tells him he's taxed too much. No kidding, our protagonist comments to himself as he continues driving.

"We just dug ourselves out of a big budget hole," the governor continues. "Let's not spend ourselves back into one."

Our guy isn't really interested in politics. He's just trying to get by. But he still deserves the truth.

What Pawlenty isn't telling Minnesotans, like the one described here, is the other side of the story.

The governor won't tell our guy that under his watch college tuition has gone through the roof. He won't tell him that the health care safety net has been decimated. He won't tell him that funding for public schools isn't keeping up with inflation and that "no new taxes" in St. Paul means plenty of new taxes on Main Street.

Also ignored in the slick radio ad the governor just rolled out is that nobody wants to raise taxes on the typical Minnesotan.

House and Senate DFLers have competing plans to raise taxes on the very wealthiest of our state's residents.

Under the House proposal, the state income tax on families making more than $400,000 and individuals earning more than $200,000 would go from 7.85 percent to 9 percent. A higher tax on 28,000 Minnesotans ? out of 5.1 million residents statewide ? would generate $433 million to help reduce property taxes and boost education funding.

The Senate plan is broader and would raise the income tax rate on the 93,000 wealthiest Minnesotans to 9.7 percent, with the $1 billion in new revenue also going toward education and property tax relief.

The House and Senate plans aren't extravagant. They're staring off points focused on a couple of the issues most important to Minnesotans. We still haven't addressed the health care crisis and college tuition is largely a back-burner issue. These proposals cover important basics and do little more.

In his first state of the state address more than four years ago, Pawlenty used the word sacrifice (or a variation of it) 15 times. But as a result of this governor's policies the sacrificing has been left to those who have already done more than they can afford.

Nobody likes the idea of raising taxes on anyone, but ultimately we need new revenue to undo the damage done in recent years. DFLers at the State Capitol want Joe Mauer to pay more, while the governor wants the burden to fall on folks like the man described earlier. To people of good conscience, this should be a no-brainer.

It's time we put progress ahead of politics.

It's time we as a state start standing up for and honoring those who have already done their fair share.

It's time the governor live up to his talk of the Minnesota "spirit of giving and sacrifice."

It's time we do the right thing because someone, somewhere is counting on us.

Christopher Truscott can be reached at chris.truscott@gmail.com. He's taking bets. What will happen first: Pawlenty raising taxes or the Twins winning an American League championship?
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Pawlenty Needs Some 'Splaining on the Gas Tax

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 04/04/07 23:52

Paul Bartlett

Tim Pawlenty's opposition to increasing the gas tax is a real puzzle. There is no doubt that this governor would again veto an increase in Minnesota's fairest and most progressive tax. And there is no doubt that every penny of that increase is needed to repair the highway system that Pawlenty has willfully ignored.

Unlike income, sales and property taxes, the gas tax rate decreases as the price increases. At the current $.22 per gallon, the tax rate at $2.00 per gallon is 11%; 8.8% at $2.50 per gallon; and 7.3% at $3.00 per gallon. The tax rate relaxes as the pump price increases, giving drivers some relative relief.

Pawlenty has been chauffeured far too long. I suggest he drive his own vehicle on any stretch of I-94 or I-494 or I-694 and he'll quickly discover that Minnesota's potholes now rival the deep South sinkholes that swallow entire mobile home parks in a single chomp.

It's his job to fund and fix our roads. As Ricky (Ricardo) used to say to Lucy, "You got some 'splaining' to do."

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Kline: Good Town Hall Meeting Doesn't Change Facts

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 04/04/07 08:55

By Christopher Truscott

U.S. Rep. John Kline should be applauded for the free-flowing town hall meeting he hosted Tuesday night.

Over the course of the two-hour session at Lakeville South High School, the congressman took questions and listened to comments on topics ranging from postal reform to special education funding to the Iraq War.

But while Kline deserves high praise for meeting with several hundred constituents on a blustery Minnesota night, he didn't say or do anything to earn a fourth term in office. In fact, one's left wondering how he got a third term.

On the biggest issue facing our country, the bloody civil war in Iraq, Kline proved once again ? and once and for all ? he's not one of the people who will lead us out of a quagmire that to date has claimed 3,257 American lives, including 57 Minnesotans.

He acknowledges the need for a political solution to the Sunni-Shiite fighting, but ultimately he's wedded to a policy of escalation ? even citing page 73 of the Iraq Study Group report, which provides tentative support for a "short-term" troop surge. He's silent, however, on page XIII of the bipartisan document, which calls for expanded diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. (It's worth noting there are 77 pages between XIII and 73. Did he miss those?)

While the new Democratic majority in Congress is working toward a solution for a war the American people clearly oppose, Kline voted against the House troop funding legislation that calls for an Aug. 31, 2008, end to American military involvement in Iraq.

On Tuesday night he explained he's opposed to policies that would make "it illegal for our troops to win." That's a great attempt at re-framing the debate. It's also hogwash.

U.S. troops have done everything asked of them. They've toppled a dictator, eliminated a weapons of mass destruction threat and helped provide security for democratic elections. " Iraq is sovereign," according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which means our troops' work is done.

A deadline will make it clear to Iraqis that our military commitment to their country is not open-ended and it's time for them to "stand up" and for us to "stand down." We're giving them more than a year's worth of notice. If the government in Baghdad isn't ready to take control of its affairs by then, it never will be.

Nearly four years after the fall of the Iraqi capital, Kline's strategy is nothing more than the Stay the Course 2.0 plan the White House unveiled in January. While his past military service is commendable, Kline's performance as a check on an administration in dangerously over its head is terrible.

It's about time we had a congressman who's willing to adjust his thinking as circumstances change. It's about time we had a congressman who's willing to think outside the box when it comes to creating solutions to the serious issues facing our country. It's about time we had a congressman with a reality-based foreign policy.

Folksy charm isn't a substitute for those important qualities. We deserve better and given the daunting nature of the challenges America faces, we need better. There's too much on the line for the more-of-the-same thinking that got us where we are today.

Will the next 2nd Congressional District representative please step forward?

Christopher Truscott can be reached at chris.truscott@gmail.com. After he's retired from Congress, Kline should take his town hall meeting show on the road. He might even score a time slot on cable access television.

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