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Seifert: 2009 Session Lacks Proper Focus

Monday, March 30th, 2009 at 5:08 am

(Column from House Minority Leader Marty Seifert)

If there is one day that perfectly symbolizes the 2009 legislative session at this point it would be Thursday, March 19.  That morning, the Department of Employment and Economic Development announced that Minnesota’s unemployment rate hit 8.1 percent, the highest rate since 1983.  A few hours later, Democrats held a press conference to announce their plan to raise taxes by $4.4 billion.  That is how things go here at the State Capitol: Minnesotans lose jobs, Democrats propose tax increases.  Too much of our time this year has been spent on the latter and not enough on how to reverse all these job losses.

The plans put forth by Democrats to cut K-12 education funding, raise state taxes and let local governments start raising sales taxes will not reposition Minnesota for prosperity.  In fact, these proposals will push economic recovery farther away, perhaps permanently.  Devaluing education while allowing the rest of government to continue pushing debt onto future generations is a prescription for mediocrity, not success.

Instead of the more spending and higher taxes agenda, Republicans at the State Capitol are offering a way forward that reforms government, sets clear priorities and does not raise taxes.  We want Minnesota’s economic turnaround to be driven by the people of Minnesota, not their government.  And when times are better, the rewards of your hard work will remain yours, not the government’s.

How can we put this plan into action? Three ways.  First, we establish a clear expectation that government will not spend more than taxpayers can afford.  A government of the people should not bankrupt them.  With that standard in place, we set priorities.  Programs of questionable value or effectiveness are a drain on taxpayers that need to be re-evaluated and possibly eliminated.  That may offend some interest groups and the legislators who cater to them, but it needs to be done. A more focused and efficient government is better positioned to serve its citizens than a slow and wasteful bureaucracy.

Finally, we will have to stay in touch with the people who make government possible: the taxpayers.  No one making decisions in
government right now is asking how taxpayers will afford to pay for these massive bailouts and trillion dollar deficits.  It is time to stop disrespecting today’s taxpayers and pushing debt onto their children. Look at some of the tax increases Minnesotans are dealing with since 2007: two gas tax increases, a statewide sales tax increase, a metro-only sales tax increase, new wheelage taxes and vehicle registration tax increases.  When will enough be enough?

Our over-arching goal is to reform government so that it operates more efficiently with your tax dollars.  If government consumes less, families and businesses have more, meaning more support for local businesses and more freedom to grow jobs.  That is the direction we need to move our public policy discussions for what remains of the 2009 legislative session.

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