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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Rep. Davids Takes Away Revenue And Health At The Same Time

Category: GOP Politics
Posted: 02/19/15 13:47

by Dave Mindeman

Rep. Greg Davids is rapidly becoming one of my favorite Republican lackeys. He epitomizes what the GOP in Minnesota is all about. He stretches the truth like a rubber band and he offers critiques on anything proposed by Democrats and he hasn't met a tax he couldn't hate. Being Chair of the House Tax Committee helps that along.

But speaking of taxes, he's cutting us a new angle....

The House tax committee debated a bill Wednesday that would prevent cigarette taxes from increasing in the future. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, who chairs the tax committee. His bill would put the breaks on automatic annual increases in the cigarette excise tax.

Cigarette taxes have less to do with raising revenue and more to work as a smoking deterrent. Former Gov. Pawlenty recognized that when he called a cigarette tax increase - a health user fee (his own need for semantics at the time).

Still, it has produced revenue. Davids change would cost the state....

The change would cost the state about $11 million in 2016-17 and roughly $38 million in 2018-19, according to the Department of Revenue. Analysts projected the anticipated decrease in sales of cigarettes would slow if the bill were to pass.

I'd like to hear Davids expound on how loss of revenue from his cigarette tax bill compares to the $800,000 in costs coming from Gov. Dayton's increase in Commissioner salaries, but I imagine Davids wouldn't see the point.

So we would lose revenue and cigarette sales would not decrease as anticipated. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. But Davids gives us his real purpose....

Davids said the tax encourages cigarette smuggling across state lines.

Sounds kind of ominous. But Davids isn't eliminating the tax or even reducing it - what he is doing is preventing automated increases that were put in the original bill to continue to deter smoking in Minnesota.

So how that is going to have any big impact on the current state of "smuggling" is hard to understand. Border cities have to contend with differences in state cigarette taxes and gasoline taxes. There is a fine line between advocacy for these border communities and statewide public policy. In the case of cigarettes, statewide policy has and should continue to have the higher priority. After all, cigarette use has an impact on our health and human service budget as well. And we have made important progress in the reduction of smoking in Minnesota.

What Rep. Davids is doing here is a strange set of priorities. He wants to reverse course on a successful state policy and take away the revenue it generates at the same time.

The GOP House acts in mysterious ways.
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More Petty Politics From MN House GOP

Category: GOP Politics
Posted: 02/10/15 05:29

by Dave Mindeman

Minnesota House Republicans are, again, engaging in more petty politics. This time the target is pay raises for Dayton's commissioners.

In addition, Rep. Roz Peterson, R-Lakeville, is proposing a bill that would strip the governor of his authority to raise commissioner salaries. That power had been granted to him in 2013 by a DFL-controlled Legislature. Rep. Sarah Anderson, the Plymouth Republican who chairs the State Government Finance Committee, could hold hearings on the raises as early as this week.

The salaries of government employees are always an easy political target. The Legislature, itself, has not had a raise in salary since 1999. They are effectively frozen forever because if a raise would occur, then the party in charge would be subject to political attack for "outrageous" spending at the taxpayer's expense.

Commissioners have not had a raise for 12 years. The biggest raise in the Dayton package goes to the Chair of the Met Council and frankly, given the level of responsibility involved with that position and the administrative talent needed there, this type of commensurate salary was long overdue.

The optics of pay raises for government administrators is always easy to attack. And it always gets a high profile politically. But, in the big scheme of things, it is not exactly going to hit the average taxpayer in the wallet.

In this case, not only is the House GOP going to strip the Governor from his authority to raise those salaries, but they are going to "punish" the departments the commissioners head with budgetary cuts....

The emergency bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee Monday is designed to provide stopgap funding to the departments of Health, Human Services and Natural Resources. But it now includes an amendment from Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, that would require cuts of $16,000, $6,000 and $18,000 on the three agencies, respectively, or roughly six months worth of the new raises for those commissioners. The amendment would not mandate cuts to commissioner salaries, instead ordering Minnesota Management and Budget to take the money from the commissioners' salaries, "to the extent possible."

The cuts involved here border on the ridiculous. I'm not sure those kind of numbers will have much effect other than a nice publicity stunt and political talking point for the House committee chairs.

Minnesota government is clearly behind the curve when it comes to salaries for top level management jobs. Even at the new salaries, top administrative talent is not going to seek government service unless they are willing to "sacrifice" some of their potential earning power. The private sector pays far more for the same type of responsibility.

But in the private sector, Republicans will tell you that salaries are driven by "market forces"....except for CEO salaries which are driven by pure greed. In government, salaries are driven by nothing tangible....just political showmanship. A $50,000 bump in salary seems outrageous on the surface - but if that salary has been frozen for 12 years, it is merely keeping up with inflation over that time.

In these times, we need to have the best and the brightest people we can get to administer large budgets with a large number of employees - with clients that potentially involve every citizen of the state.

I realize that Republicans seize upon every opportunity that has the easy political target of big pay raises for government jobs. After all, it is always about the next election for them. But good government requires good, knowledgeable employees - who also need to make a satisfactory living to avoid temptations when handling big budgets.

Governor Dayton has made his case and has been willing to take the heat to do what he feels is right. A Republican attack is inevitable in these situations, no matter what the actual need involves.

I guess the House GOP deems it important that they make their political points and waste valuable committee time to air them publicly.

But, I guess that is just what they do.
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The Hazards of a Fiscal Responsibility State Senator

Category: GOP Politics
Posted: 01/14/15 14:45

by Dave Mindeman

It is going to be difficult not to laugh when Senator Sean Nienow goes into one of his fiscal responsibility diatribes. Especially when he just discharged over $800,000 in debts via bankruptcy.

The Senator took out a small business loan of $613,000 from the Small Business Adminstration - with little collateral other than his "word". And it is just gone.

Sen. Nienow offered this....

"Businesses succeed and don't succeed all the time. If people don't take risks with businesses we don't have an economy," he said. "On paper, everything worked. Everything looked responsible. If it didn't, the bank wouldn't have approved the loan."

Hmmm....taking a a risk with SBA money and then just not repaying?

The federal government sued last year, and a $748,000 judgment was entered against the Nienows. None of the debt was paid.

Republicans in the Minnesota legislature talk endlessly about how we need to operate state budgets the way Minnesota families operate their own. I assume that doesn't mean to emulate the Nienows.

Just one more tidbit of irony....

The Nienows were ordered to take a course on financial management, which court documents show they completed before the case closed.

I wonder if there was a final exam?
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