Compromise is not a dirty word
Compromise is essential for a democratic society to function. Unfortunately the lack of compromise is why we now have a partial shutdown.
The sticking point was over how to fix the largest budget deficit in the states history. Both Democrat Governor Dayton and the Republican controlled House and Senate agreed that cuts would be part of the solution. Governor Dayton agreed to fix one-third of the deficit with cuts but he wanted to fix the remaining two-thirds through a tax on the top 5% of income in the state, which would fall most heavily in the wealthier suburbs of the Twin Cities.
He argued that this was justified because in the past they had not been asked to contribute to solving our deficit problems, and because they pay a much lower percentage of their income in taxes than people in other areas of the state like rural Minnesota.
The Republican controlled legislature objected to raising any revenue at the state level from the highest income areas. Instead they preferred policies that would raise property taxes at the local level. These property taxes would fall most heavily on rural areas. They also preferred deeper cuts to things like our schools, colleges, and
hospitals in rural Minnesota.
A compromise was offered at the end of session that split the difference between the Governor and the Republican controlled legislature. The governor would have to come down from two-thirds revenue to one-third. The Republicans would have to come up from zero revenue to one-third. The remaining two-thirds of the budget deficit would be fixed with cuts. Each side would have to meet in the middle. Each would give up half of what they wanted and each would get half of what they wanted. I voted for this compromise and Governor Dayton agreed
to sign it. Unfortunately the majority rejected this compromise and continued to insist on no new tax increase on the highest income. Due to this, the session ended without a budget agreement.
Since the end of session and before the partial shutdown, Governor Dayton has moved even closer to the Republican leaders, trimming his income tax to only those making more than one million dollars a year in taxable income (more than $20,000 a week after deductions). It would mean that only one-sixth of the deficit would be solved with taxes on the highest incomes and five-sixths with cuts. The tax would impact only 7,700 people who currently pay among the lowest percent of their income in taxes.
It is important to note that half of these people do not even live in Minnesota. It includes people like the Ghermezian family who are citizens of Canada but they own the Mall of America in Bloomington. The other half mostly live in the wealthy suburbs. It’s likely not a single person in our district would see a tax increase.
It is also important to point out that 99.7% of Minnesotans would see no tax increase under the governor’s plan unlike the Republican plan which would raise property taxes on the vast majority of rural Minnesotans with homes, businesses, and farms.
So, while the governor has moved from asking for two-thirds revenue, to one-third revenue, and now to only one-sixth revenue coming from the wealthiest in the suburbs, the current majority leadership continues to
insist on no revenue from the highest incomes.
Unfortunately there are many in the legislature who seem to think compromise is a dirty word. Former Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer stated last Friday in a television interview that, “It really isn’t about compromise.” He encouraged Republican leaders to continue to hold out against any compromise on taxing the highest income levels in the state to fix the deficit.
I disagree with this notion that compromise is bad. Indeed it is essential in a democracy with a divided government as we have today. When I served in the majority the debate between Governor Pawlenty and the Democrat majority was often heated at the end of session. However, during the four years I was in the House Majority we avoided a shutdown through compromise.
Now again, with the new majority, compromise is necessary for our democracy to function. I am continuing to work to reach a solution and am available to answer any questions or concerns you have about the partial shutdown and our path forward to a budget solution.