The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Mankato Free Press Editor's Blog

May 29, 2013

News and comment: Legislature taxes and politics

The DFL-controlled Legislature in Minnesota played an astute game with taxes and spending this year and at least some of it was driven by politics.

But you're starting to see a much more politically aware leadership at the DFL, including Speaker Paul Thissen, who The Free Press editorial board met with last week.

Yes, the DFL raised taxes. But it will mostly be viewed as a tax on the upper single digit percentage of taxpayers and in my view will have almost no political fallout among average people. I can't remember a time I saw an average person stand up for the interests of the wealthy.

It sounds crass, but it's true if you think about it.

GOP tried to tie some of the DFL taxes to hitting everyone, but the arguments were a little iffy and not likely to stick anywhere. You have to go to the medical tax which no one ever sees on the bill from the insurance company. Those things are so complicated, you can't figure out who paid what, much less where the tax comes in.

There's the cigarette tax, but only about 17 to 20 percent of the people smoke. The rest  have very little sympathy for smokers.

But the DFL leadership, mostly Gov. Mark Dayton and the House are very aware of giving the GOP any talking points whatsoever for next year's election. They proposed raising sales taxes, clothing taxes and liquor taxes, but none of those ideas had enough political muster to pass.

In my view, that was very much by design, although the speaker described it as not moving forward because there was no popular support for those sales tax proposals and people have to, in general, get more behind those proposals before the DFL will move on them.

I sense a slight but important difference from DFL leaders of the past who often plowed ahead with tax proposals, hoping people would understand the need and that they could live on those beliefs through the next election. No so much anymore.

We're in a different era on resistance to taxes and media amplification of that via groups like Tea Party are having an impact.



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