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Minnesota’s government shutdown anniversary
Jul 2nd, 2012 by Worried Minnesotan

The anniversary of our state’s government shutdown reminds us that we have not solved anything yet.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature could not agree on a solution to the state’s $5 billion budget deficit, resulting in a partial shutdown of state services and programs beginning last July 1. The two sides eventually reached a compromise, but have argued since over who was to blame.

The “disagreement” is steeped in partisan addiction to “T-A-X” as a showstopper. The word “T-A-X” isn’t a policy … it is a tool to implement policy. If we talked policy first, we might actually be able to reach a reasonable, sustainable budget agreement based on shared beliefs in what our state should invest in for the common good.

I don’t think anyone would admit they are “against” the common good. But, we need to agree on what “the common good” is – real policy statements, not red herrings like “to tax or not to tax.”

Pressure your legislators to talk real policy and give up the show-stopping tax talk!

I like smoothly paved roads …
Jun 27th, 2012 by Worried Minnesotan

Have you ever heard anyone say, “Darn, I wish they wouldn’t make my roads smooth – I really like bouncing around on potholes!” Well, potholes happen (and stay around too long) when we reduce taxes. We also get crowded public school classrooms and too few fire fighters to support safe fire fighting practices. The word “T-A-X” can’t be considered by itself – it is not a disembodied entity or a boogie man. It is a tool used by citizens to support the common good – things that we all benefit by.

With our caustic conversations regarding taxes, we tend NOT to have meaningful conversations about community needs. Instead, we often talk about tax cuts or tax increases … the cart before the horse.

I’ve decided to convene a local, public conversation in Woodbury, Minn., to try to figure out how to talk policy without getting into the rhetoric of the word “T-A-X”.

I hope you can join me on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. We’ll be at Woodbury’s Central Park facility at 8595 Central Park Place, Woodbury, MN 55125. Valley Creek Meeting Room A. To RSVP, send me a note at kdebrine@comcast.net.

If you would also like to convene a community conversation, please contact me and we can collaborate in your home town.

Supporting our democracy can’t be voluntary
May 6th, 2012 by Worried Minnesotan

Paying taxes is one of our few required civic duties in support of a strong democracy.

Some politicians believe that the private and nonprofit sectors should take over a lot of the social welfare programs that tax revenues currently support. But they can’t – not in the real world of more than 300 million U.S. citizens. No matter how well meaning or well funded they are, the private and nonprofit sectors are not beholden to the democracy. They don’t bear the burden of obligation to a nation or state. They can pick and choose their causes.

Steven King recently said it best in The Daily Beast …

What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.

Let’s talk about what we can do together as Minnesotans, not hope for that heroic nonprofit or 1 percenter to provide noblesse oblige!

MN Legislative Session Falling Apart Because of “TAX”?
Apr 30th, 2012 by Worried Minnesotan

Here we go again …

House GOP leaders said action on tax reductions and capital projects were higher priorities for Republicans than the stadium, which they consider the governor’s top priority. Star Tribune, April 29, 2012

When “TAX” is the issue, instead of the “issue” being the issue (like bonding bills, construction projects, health and human services needs, education), you know you are in for another trip down the rabbit hole.

Abuse of the word “TAX” is at an all time high in our Minnesota legislature. We use the word as a wedge, rather than as a tool to help support the common good or to address real problems.

Legislators, I implore you to drop your addiction to the word and start working toward solutions to real problems. Let “TAX” be the tool and not the barrier.

Just the Facts: (source www.growthandjustice.org)

  • When Minnesota invested more, our economy did better.
  • Since we’ve lowered taxes, our economy has slipped in many rankings.
  • We currently pay less for government than we did in the 1990s.
The property tax dilemma
Apr 25th, 2012 by Worried Minnesotan
A recent MPR story (4/23/2012) highlighted one of the trends that has been frustrating many Minnesota citizens. Property taxes keep going up, but services aren’t expanding. So, if “tax” is not a bad word, what is going on here?

As state support declines, the need for revenue gets pushed closer to home, to local governments – to property taxes. I have an example here in Washington County. When three branch libraries were shuttered because of reduced revenue for the county library system, two of the branch libraries were taken over by their city governments. Unfortunately those “city run” branches are working with volunteers and donated books. Great citizen engagement, but not the same level of service. Property tax increases aren’t the “problem.” They are a symptom of shifting costs. The theory behind insurance is pooled risk. If everyone pays a little, the burden is shared when disaster strikes. With taxation, those with less fortunate economic circumstances can get a helping hand – and remain engaged and productive citizens.

We are a community of people who are inextricably bound to each other. When costs are shifted to smaller and smaller populations (counties, cities, townships), it is much harder to adequately support the community. There have been stories of small towns going without police protection because they can’t afford their own force and they can’t afford the fees they’d have to pay for state patrol protection.

Our legislators could learn a lesson from this cost shifting. The “community needs” don’t disappear, even if you “starve the beast” (government). We still have unlivable wages that cause people to need Food Stamps and keep them from accessing affordable health care – even if they are working full time.

During this legislative session, there were three proposed budget amendments that would have limited the ability of the legislature to pass tax increases. Those amendments didn’t get anywhere because of a coalition of concerned organizations was able to convince law makers on the right and the left that this kind of amendment would do more harm than good and have unintended consequences to local governments. You can read some analysis about how such amendments in other states have caused higher property taxes.

To tax or not to tax … unfortunately that has become the ONLY question
Apr 3rd, 2012 by Worried Minnesotan

I wonder if our legislators would act differently …

if “T-A-X” weren’t considered a bad word.

Let’s imagine the possibilities!

 

Post your imaginings on this blog. Maybe together, we can help Minnesota law makers find common ground and “get past” that deal breaking word.

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