Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tax and bonding bills reach conference committees

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat
If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman

—"Taxman" by George Harrison

As reported by Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority, the Minnesota House and Senate omnibus tax bills are overflowing with tax increases (i.e., veto bait) for all Minnesotans, not just "the rich:"

[WARNING: The following explicit tax increases may offend some fiscal moderates and conservatives. Reader discretion is advised.]

The Senate plan (SF2074) calls for across the board income tax increases and a new top tax bracket of 9.25% to collect $2 billion in new revenues. The House plan (HF2323) is a patchwork of tax hikes on income, tobacco, alcohol, recreational vehicles, and even includes a tax on homeowners who have higher energy (natural gas) use during winter months...

The House bill also eliminates some pretty substantial tax deductions, like the mortgage interest deduction and education tax credits. A slew of other changes remove subtractions from federal taxable income and throw in some additions, like motor vehicle and property taxes paid, and some charitable contributions. All of this has the effect of inflating the amount of personal income that the state will compute taxes on. The House tax bill also establishes a new top tax rate of 9% on income over $169,000 (or $300,000 for married couples filing a joint return).

And don't forget Rep. Jim Davnie's (DFL-Minneapolis) proposal to tax purchases from online stores like iTunes and Governor Pawlenty promises to veto all of these tax increases should they reach his desk.

Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) has her eye on the "emergency" bonding bill, also in conference committee. The Legislature typically passes an omnibus bonding bill in odd-numbered years only for structures in dire need of repair. Apparently, our DFL-controlled legislature is not about to let a good crisis go to waste, because Anderson reports that the bonding bill could exceed the customary limit of 3% of non-dedicated general fund revenues.

Why does this matter? If borrowing exceeds the three percent cap, the interest rate we pay on bonds will increase. "Consequently," said Anderson in an e-mail to constituents, "we will pay more for the bonds at a time when [the state is] $6.4 billion in hole. In addition, school districts will pay more for bonds for their building projects since their bond rating is tied to the state bond rating." Can you say, "property tax increase?"

It's time to send a message to the Legislature that a recession with high unemployment is the time to cut spending, not raise taxes. Stop by the Tax Cut Rally at the State Capitol grounds this Saturday, 11 am - 4 pm, and make sure the Legislature gets the message loud and clear. When he makes his appearance at the annual rally around 1:00 pm, you'll also have a chance to encourage Gov. Pawlenty to ink-up his veto pen and say, "Go ahead, make my day!"

Monday, April 27, 2009

Missing at Tea Parties: right wing extremists

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson got it exactly right in his assessment of the Saint Paul Tax Day Tea Party ("Perception of Tea Parties was incorrect," Star Tribune, April 26).
...I saw thousands of average, hard-working Minnesota taxpayers (many with family in tow) respectfully voicing deep concerns about the future of our country...This was about spending at the federal level that has gone completely berserk, about an exploding deficit that threatens the quality of life of our kids (and probably that of our kids' kids), and about a bailout mentality in Washington that turns the capitalist foundation of this country on its head.

There were few if any "right wing extremists" at peaceful protests across the country on April 15, and I hope that the Department of Homeland Security was not wasting its resources spying on the law-abiding working folks there.

Many on the left are constantly stereotyping or attacking the messengers, while refusing to engage in civil and reasoned debate on tax — and spending — policy. A canard that I noticed circulating in the leftmedia and Twittersphere was that the Tea Party was a protest against all taxes. It goes something like this: "I wonder if they enjoyed driving to the Tea Party on taxpayer-subsidized roads," or "I pay my taxes so we can have police, fire departments, and veterans benefits."

Nobody at the Tea Party is against taxes for legitimate functions of government, so let's put an end to that straw man argument. The Tax Day Tea Parties were a protest against excessive taxation and wasteful spending, making them more akin to Shay's Rebellion than the Boston Tea Party (sorry, Rick Santelli).

Even with the DFL's across-the-board tax rate hikes heading for a veto, it's more important than ever for fiscal moderates and conservatives to make an afternoon of it this Saturday at the Tax Cut Rally, State Capitol grounds, 11 am - 4 pm. There will be plenty of people to meet and things to do and learn for the whole family. The keynote speaker is Tax Cut Coalition icon Jason Lewis, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty will make his first appearance at the annual event.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Seifert and Brod review the DFL tax bill

Rep. Laura Brod (photo: MN House)Check out this video of Monday's press availability of House Minority Leader Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) and Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague), Republican Lead on the House Taxes Committee. It very clearly explains why the DFL budget raises spending to unsustainable levels, raises taxes on everyone in Minnesota, and represses job creation: precisely the wrong answer to our state's budget crisis. It also shows Seifert's mastery of his position as caucus leader and spokesman in the House, and a rising conservative star in Brod.

This leadership should be supported with a call to your legislator, urging the reforms and responsible spending cuts advocated by Gov. Pawlenty, Minnesota Budget Solutions, and the Center of the American Experiment. And in case they don't get the message, multiply your voice at the Tax Cut Rally, Saturday, May 2, 11 am - 4 pm, at the Capitol.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Saint Paul Tea Party speakers call followers to action

Twila Brase, President of the Citizens' Council on Health Care: "Do we want to be the land of 10,000 bureaucrats?"

Jim Schottmuller, 2008 Ramsey County Commissioner candidate: "Get involved..."

Chris Baker,
100.3 KTLK-FM: "We're not going away."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Could Dave Thompson lead the MNGOP back to principled conservatism...

...or lead principled conservatives to a third party?

In the days after the national Tax Day Tea Parties, the GOP had better wake up and smell the tea. Within several weeks, thousands of everyday citizens organized themselves into hundreds of rallies in towns large and small all over the country, with the help of online social networking tools and talk radio, without the support of any political party. Indeed, many elected politicians and the chair of the Republican National Committee were denied the opportunity to speak at these events. The Tea Parties were nonpartisan, expressing dissatisfaction with the runaway spending and high taxation of Democrats and Republicans alike.

If the GOP fails to commit to shrinking government, increasing liberty, and reducing taxation, they could discover that the start of the Tea Parties marked the end of the Grand Old Party.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thousands at Capitol say they are "Taxed Enough Already"

An orderly yet passionate crowd of several thousand gathered on the south steps of the Minnesota State Capitol yesterday evening for the Saint Paul Tax Day Tea Party to protest high taxes, deficit spending, and excessive government intrusion, especially from the federal government. The bright white capitol rotunda contrasted with the bright blue sky to greet the after-work crowd, many carrying homemade signs and American flags.

Speakers included Barb Davis White, former candidate for Congress; Dave Thompson, former talk radio personality and candidate for chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota; President of the Citizens Council on Health Care Twila Brase; 100.3 KTLK-FM personality Chris Baker; Taxpayers League of Minnesota president Phil Krinkie, and others. The program was emceed by KTLK-FM personality Sue Jeffers. Jeffers ran against Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the 2006 gubernatorial primary election. (That's the irrepressible Jeffers at the end of my video embedded in this article.)

Many in attendance dropped a tea bag into a wooden crate, to be delivered to the Minnesota Legislature as a symbolic statement opposing any new state taxes and spending.

Contrary to orchestrated liberal talking points repeated on the Internet and in the mainstream media, the protesters were obviously not opposed to taxation for legitimate functions of government such as roads, public safety, and veterans affairs. Contrary to liberal ad hominem attacks, the protesters were clearly educated, veterans, families, young and old, men and women, many of whom had never attended a political rally before (including some of the event organizers). Contrary to what the leftmedia and the Department of Homeland Security would have you believe, they were far from extreme in appearance or behavior (very different from your typical Code Pink rally, for example).

And contrary to Internet reports, the Saint Paul Tea Party, and hundreds like it across the country, was staged by volunteers, not by any political party, special interest group, or Fox News(!). Notably, the mention of politicians like U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Pawlenty were greeted with audible ambivalence.

Baker and others urged the crowd to think of the Tea Party as a beginning, not an end in itself. Another speaker encouraged everyone to see the web site After the Tea Party for ideas to continue the movement toward liberty, lower taxes, and limited government. Krinkie reminded the crowd of the May 2 Tax Cut Rally featuring nationally-syndicated talk show host Jason Lewis, beginning at 11:00 am on the Minnesota State Capitol steps. Additional rallies nationwide are also planned for Independence Day on Saturday, July 4.

For coverage of this and all other national Tea Party events, with video and tons of photos, see Pajamas TV and True North (the latter was a local Tax Day Tea Party co-sponsor). I will also post some additional video within a few days.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Minnesota budget solutions

Serious, principle-based budget solutions have been proposed by two Minnesota groups. They merit serious consideration by the Legislature and Gov. Pawlenty to solve the state's $6.4 billion budget deficit. As an informed citizen and taxpayer, you should check them out, too, and let your legislator know what you think about them.

The Minnesota Budget Solutions Coalition, a group of grassroots non-profit organizations led by the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and Minnesota Majority, has published its recommendations in a comprehensive yet easy-to-read document on its web site. The recommendations are based on four core values:
  • Limited government
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • No new tax increases
  • Long-term solutions instead of quick fixes

The Center for the American Experiment has just published its budget recommendations in a document called Preparing For an Even More Demanding Future. It has four goals:

  • Promote job growth
  • Expand economic freedom
  • Bring balance to budgets beyond the next biennium
  • Obtain more value from government programs

Please urge your legislators to seriously consider these proposals as a way to solve our state's fiscal crisis and establish a better way forward for the state of Minnesota. And show your support for these principles by attending the Tax Day Tea Party near you next Wednesday, and the Tax Cut Rally on May 2 at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Your community is about to be organized

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies." —Groucho Marx

If you like what Congress and President Obama have done to "fix" the banks and the auto industry, wait until you see what they have in store for your favorite community organizations. A bill is now on the way to President Obama for his signature into law that will turn the idea of volunteerism on its head: by turning private charity and volunteer service into a government program.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a motion to agree on the Senate amendments to HR 1388, "The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act." This 275 to 149 vote (Ayes: Democrat 249, Republican 26; Nays: Democrat 0; Republican 149) sends the bill to the President to sign into law.

When the President signs HR 1388, Americorps will be on track to increase from 75,000 to 250,000 members and spend over $5 billion in the next five years. A new Civic Health Assessment will be established to determine whether you are volunteering, voting, supporting civic groups, and understand U.S. history and government. Can mandatory national service be far behind?

On March 24, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) eloquently explained why this bill is so fundamentally opposed to the American values of charity and self-reliance:
When the French historian de Tocqueville came to the United States not long after we were founded, one of the things that amazed him about our country that was so different from France was that in his home country when there was a problem, people would say: Someone ought to do it and government should do it; but in America we were different. When someone saw a problem, they went and got a friend and formed a small group and solved the problem themselves. Much of that was motivated by religious convictions that our place in this world is not only to help ourselves but to love and help those around us. That was key.

Volunteerism is something that works in America. When we think of America, we do not think of Congress and Presidents, we think of Little League games and PTA meetings and bake sales...Civil society is America. It responds to needs, meets challenges, and solves problems because it is free from Government.

DeMint then elaborated on the role religion plays in volunteerism, how the movement to eliminate religious expression had the unintended consequence of reducing volunteerism, creating a crisis for government to solve (sound familiar?):

You also look at what we have done over the years, forgetting that a lot of private charity and the motivation to serve God and community is a religious-based motivation...We have essentially tried to purge that motivation from our country. Most public schools, or at least a lot of them, used to sponsor Boy Scout groups. But after being sued for years because the Boy Scouts have God in their pledge and they set standards for their leaders that some do not agree with, the threat of lawsuits essentially means our Government schools have thrown out the Boy Scouts.

More than half our astronauts, half our FBI agents, a lot of the most successful people in this country were trained in the Boy Scouts to serve their community, where their character was developed. But this Federal Government has forced them out of public places. For years we purged religion from our society. Religion was the primary motivation for a lot of civic groups, a lot of services, a lot of charities, a lot of hospitals that were formed, a lot of schools...

Now we are going to come in and help solve the problem we have created. We want to promote voluntarism, we want to promote community service, when what we have done over the last several decades is essentially tried to destroy the motivation for people to serve a cause that is greater than themselves.

"There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts."
—Ronald Reagain, Farewell Address to the Nation, January 11, 1989

Change is coming. Soon the entire country will either be signing up to "Serve America," as per government regulations, or lining up to be served: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Fresh air from the Hollywood center-right [sic]

Photo by Steve Granitz - © WireImage.comThe Pop Tarts section of captured some refreshingly strong and articulate political views from TV's Law and Order star Angie Harmon this week. Harmon's wide-ranging comments went from racial political correctness to Sarah and Bristol Palin to bigotry in the Democrat party and tolerance in the GOP:
If I have anything to say against Obama it's not because I'm a racist, it's because I don't like what he's doing as President and anybody should be able to feel that way, but what I find now is that if you say anything against him you're called a racist...If I'm going to disagree with my President, that doesn't make me a racist. If I was to disagree with W, that doesn't make me racist. It has nothing to do with it, it is ridiculous.

The fact that this woman [Sarah Palin] has made the decisions she's made and literally lived her life according to that and takes heat for it is absolutely disgusting to me.

I don’t care what anybody says, this person [Bristol Palin] is still a young person and okay she's got a big situation on her hands but for anyone to sit there and make fun of her or judge her is just cruel and wrong...So if everyone could just get off her and let her live her life and do it in a way that she thinks is best, I'm all for it. I really am. She has my support 100 percent, she's a sweetheart. I've got three daughters and I'm going to stand up for them and support them in whatever they want to do.

Not all of us are supposed to believe the same things and think the same way. I think the difference between the parties is, with the Democrats you can sit down with them and have a 15 minute conversation and if you’re not believing everything they say and buying into what they’re selling you, it is like you’re some dumb hick who doesn't deserve to live here anymore. But with the Republicans, it is like okay I want to know what you know, you want to know what I know, okay great let’s go have a beer after work, we're still friends. I’m just confused as to where we lost that in America because it is everyone’s God-given right to think the way they think and that's fine. That's why our ancestors came here to America, to believe what they want, pray how they want and follow a religion with whoever they want.

Maybe there really is a political center-right in Hollywood.