Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Governor Dayton Releases His Budget Proposal

Contributed by Katherine Foley

Republican leaders in St. Paul are calling Governor Dayton's budget proposal a "job killer" (Pioneer Press, "Dayton's 5% Solution", available here:  Dayton's plan, which calls for an income tax increase for Minnesota's top 5% of earners, would solve half of Minnesota's budget crisis.  The increase would apply to married couples filing jointly who earn over $150,000, Head of Household filers who make over $130,000 and single filers making over $85,000.  

As for it being a "job killer", Dayton claims that the increase would only apply to 9% of businesses, one could speculate businesses that already benefit from federal tax breaks and outsourcing.  The claim is that companies will either leave Minnesota or will decline to make Minnesota their homes in the future.  

No body wants to pay more in taxes but a further reading of the article reveals several startling facts that Republicans are either not privy to or do not care about.  For example, in the past 8 years property tax rates have increased by 70%.  Higher income earners tend to favor property taxes because in the long run it is less money owed, but the elderly and families on fixed incomes cannot keep forking over more in property taxes to keep the police and fire fighters available to ensure their community's safety or to ensure that a community's children are receiving a competitive education.  

Furthermore, the article states that currently these top earners are actually paying less than the rest of Minnesotans.  The top 5% of earners enjoy a 9% tax rate while the bottom 90% pay 12.3% of their income in taxes.  If the argument is that the wealthy shouldn't pay more since they are creating jobs, this blogger would like to know: Where are these supposed jobs?  Minnesota lost 22,400 jobs in December and the unemployment rate continues to hover around 7%. (see If tax increases kill jobs why have we lost so many under Tim Pawlenty's reign? The truth is that the Republican argument just doesn't hold up. 

Dayton's budget doesn't only offer tax increases but also includes about $1 billion in budget cuts.  On the chopping block are cuts in MinnesotaCare that would drop 7,200 adults who are earning 200% above the poverty line, $44,000 for a family of four.  Meanwhile, elders in nursing homes or receiving home care would see a funding decrease and health care providers will see a surcharge increase in an attempt to "rein in rising health care costs."  During the campaign Dayton promised to increase funding for K-12 schools, which the state owes $1.9 billion in delayed payments.  His promise was kept, but the increase is less than 1%.  Dayton warned that if Republicans fail to get on board with new revenue sources the cuts will be even more painful for the most vulnerable Minnesotans than those he proposes.   

It is not fair that the vast majority of Minnesotans (who pay a higher tax rate anyway) face funding cuts which could potentially cause an even bigger drain on their already tight budgets.  It's true that some people abuse the social safety net, but Bernie Madoff and Tom Petters demonstrated that abuse happens at both ends of the spectrum.  Parents are fighting desperately to stay in their homes and feed their kids.  We expect schools (i.e. teachers) to be held accountable to the highest extreme with less money to work with.  The fact is that Republicans are not in this for the average Minnesotan.  Declaring that Dayton's budget "doesn't have much of a pulse" just shows how clueless they are to the suffering of many of Minnesotans.  With poverty on the rise and median household incomes on the decline, it's disgusting that Republicans are still favoring their wealthy campaign contributors (see  

I once saw a cartoon in The New Yorker that showed a lawyer sitting at his desk asking a potential client, "How much justice can you afford?"  (see image above). The cartoon could have just as easily have been a Republican sitting behind his desk asking a constituent "How much representation can you afford?"  It's a sad world when the majority can be out-represented by the wealthiest 5%.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The MN GOP Reveals Its True Colors with an Outrageously Inappropriate Campaign Brochure

Contributed by Danny S. 
Will the MN GOP ever learn from the past mistakes of political campaigns and political parties?

The MN GOP has mailed out a questionable campaign brochure that smears a DFL candidate who won the DFL primary for a special election in Northern Minnesota (House district 5B).  Carly Melin, the DFL candidate rhetorically attacked by what appears to be a highly inappropriate campaign mailer, has called for the current chairman of the MN Republican Party, Tony Sutton, to resign, according to the Star Tribune.

Melin—a 25-yr.-old attorney—is pictured in the brochure, which calls for voters to “Take your best shot” at “liberal” politicians.  

Indeed, according to the Star Tribune, the MN GOP has funded and mailed out a campaign brochure against Melin, a pro-gun Democrat running for a Minnesota House seat located in Northern Minnesota.  The campaign brochure strongly encourages voters to stand up for their “gun rights.”  Moreover, the campaign brochure implies that so-called “Liberal St. Paul Politicians” pose a risk to gun ownership.

Also pictured in the campaign brochure is a hunter with a shotgun.  That page of the brochure is emblazoned with the words “Take your best shot,” according to the Star Tribune.  On the next page of the campaign mailer, a display of Ms. Melin’s picture is shown.  

After the recent tragedy in Tucson, this extremely unfortunate and highly inappropriate campaign mailing seems insensitive, misleading, and possibly dangerous.  We all know that some individuals do not have adequate mental health resources in our society.  We all know that some people take criminal actions when they feel that they are justified in so doing.  Our political leadership across the political spectrum ought to encourage lawful and responsible behavior, since even a single, deranged person can do too much harm to the democratic process and our communities.  It seems that those on the political right who take delight in using violent political campaign rhetoric have gone too far here.

With this truly ugly campaign brochure, the MN Republican Party has crossed the bounds of acceptable campaign rhetoric and basic human decency.  The MN Republican Party should immediately stop sending this ad, and the MN Republican Party should officially issue an apology to Ms. Melin and Minnesota’s voters, without further delay or attempts at distraction.    

Additionally, the current chairman of the MN Republican Party, Tony Sutton, ought to retract the campaign ad and profusely apologize to the voters and Ms. Melin, or step down from his leadership post.

In terms of the governance of our people, our democratic government can only be as good as the people who choose it and participate in the democratic process.  The current words and actions of Mr. Sutton are unacceptable when comprising a part of this democratic process.  In addition to Mr. Sutton, the rest of the MN Republican Party should feel ashamed to fund and put its name on this sort of campaign drivel—pure nonsense that confuses the voters and possibly harms both the community and the community’s dialogue with elected officials.          

To learn more about this campaign brochure, please read the following articles:

Administrator Note: To support or learn more about Ms. Melin's candidacy please view her page on Facebook, located here:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Message from the Business Conference: The DFL is the party of creation

Contributed by Katie Foley
This past Saturday (Feb. 5) found DFLers flooding Cokato, Minnesota for the State Central Committee's Business Conference.  The agenda included electing new party officers and the weeks preceding the conference found this blogger's phone ringing semi-constantly with this candidate or another telling me that I should support them.

Among the offices to be filled were Chair and Vice-Chair.  Ken Martin and Marge Hoffa ran for the offices respectively, unopposed and as a ticket. I appreciated the fact that they were running campaigns and making phone calls even though they ran unopposed because, as Senator Amy Klobuchar pointed out, you can't make predictions in the DFL. Don't, however, get me started on the obnoxious pamphlets that flooded the auditorium and atrium - suffice it to say that the reassurances that I received that the amount of wasted paper has decreased over the years was not actually reassuring at all.  

Ken and Marge were elected by acclamation, with the sole dissenter being a gentleman behind me who claimed to "not know enough about [Ken]."  (He has apparently found a way to keep his phone number a secret...)  Vanessa Blomgren was elected secretary, a Mr. Hamilton was elected treasurer, Eric Margolles (likely spelled incorrectly) was elected Affirmative Action officer and Chris Schmitter and Jamal Abdhualli (also likely spelled incorrectly) were elected to fill the two vacant male director seats.

Anyone who has attended a party convention or conference can tell you that, for the most part, they are incredibly boring.  You sit for hours, listening to speeches and casting ballots.  Most of it involves waiting - waiting for a ballot, waiting for ballot results, waiting for the parliamentarian to decide whether Mr. Y can speak at microphone 1.  It's really very boring, except that it isn't.  To a political junkie such as myself, meeting with crowds of DFLers provides many opportunities for reflection and enlightenment.  

For example, I have discovered that the most coherent message the DFL has to offer right now is that we are in need of a coherent message.  Though I agree whole heartedly with the sentiment that getting DFLers elected (starting with my former classmate, Carly Melin) is what is best for Minnesota, that statement in and of itself is insufficient to establish the party's stance.  Why is electing DFLers what is best for Minnesota?  That is the question on everybody's mind, and the most consistent theme I spotted was that the DFL is the party of creation.

We strive to create jobs.  We know that tax breaks to the wealthy do not create jobs - in fact, many economists would say that tax breaks creates major disincentives for reinvestment in labor and other business costs.  We strive to create opportunities.  Lower tuition, increase funding for K-12 education, develop new technologies that can be manufactured in Minnesota - whatever the topic, the DFL wants to provide people with as many opportunities as possible, starting with a solid education.  We strive to create fairness.  We believe that the Right to Counsel means that there should be a well funded public defender system and that the size of your bank account should not be directly correlated to your political power or access to justice.  The DFL strives to create the educational, political, business and social environments necessary to ensure that Minnesota thrives, not merely survives.  

The Republican booth at the State Fair this past summer had a sign that listed what the Replicans stood for in 9 words (picture pending).  That's what the DFL needs to do, develop a succint statement of what we stand for.  My proposal, based on the speeches I heard this weekend, is this:

Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party
  • Create opportunities for all Minnesotans
  • Keep America Competitive
  • Ensure Fairness and Equality

It is not perfect as far as catchy political messages go - I'm not even sure it has mass appeal - but we need to start somewhere.  If this is not what the DFL stands for then we need to re-evaluate how we are talking about ourselves and our values.

Note: My two highlights from the day were 1) the t-shirts being sold to support the group D.O.G. - Democrats Own Guns; and 2) Jamal Abduhalli assuring us that 1 in 3 Somalian refugees do not come to Minnesota for the glorious weather or because it was their life's ambition to live in a city with "Pine" in the name - they are here because they heard Minnesota was the best state to live in.