Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Profoundly Unserious Governor

Just a guess: Dan Hindbjorgen was in the recording studio yesterday afternoon.

I'm frankly at a loss to come up with the right term for the insane proposal that Mark Dayton uncorked yesterday. Steaming pile? 55-gallon drum of sewage? Dead raccoon in an interoffice envelope?

It's hard to come up with the appropriate imagery for the proposal we got from this profoundly unserious man, who has used his brand name surname to pursue a career in politics that has been desultory at best and risible at worst. Baird Helgeson and Rachel Stassen-Berger do their level best to carry Dayton's water in the Star Tribune:

Outlines of an epic legislative battle emerged Tuesday as DFL Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled a budget that would raise taxes on wealthier Minnesotans by $4 billion while requiring relatively modest spending trims.

Dayton said that under his proposal, nearly 95 percent of Minnesotans would pay no additional tax. Instead, only the top 5 percent of earners — about 138,000 filers — would see an increase in income and property taxes.

You caught that, right? If you're not part of the fortunate 5 percent, it's all good, right? No tax increase for you, boobie!

It's crap, of course. Dayton's explanation?

“This is about restoring tax fairness in Minnesota and asking our most affluent residents to help us out,” Dayton said, noting that in previous years, high earners have paid a smaller share of their income in taxes than the middle class.

Forget that fake politeness. Dayton isn't asking. He's demanding. If his plan were to go through and one of these evil Scrooge McDucks didn't pony up the dough, there would be legal sanctions.

Here's the thing -- even if Dayton's plan were to go through, it wouldn't generate anything close to the amount of money he claims it would. One of the greatest advantages of making a good living, especially in the modern era, is that a high salary or income is almost always the sign of having transferable skills. The talented professional, the entrepreneur, the rainmaker -- they have choices. They do not have to pay more money just because Brave Sir Mark stands before them. If you have the skills to make a high salary in Minnesota, you surely can make a high salary in Florida, or Texas, or South Dakota. But in those places you get to keep more of your money.

How much more money? Dayton is proposing a top tax rate of 10.95% and a "temporary" 3% surcharge on incomes above $500,000, along an additional property tax for people with especially nice homes. The effective tax rate for the recipients of Dayton's request becomes 14%, which is higher than anyplace else in the country. Do you suppose that's going to be a magnet for professionals and entrepreneurs to come to Minnesota? And if you ran a business and saw this coming, would you refuse to take Dan Hindbjorgen's phone call, because you love Minnesota so much that you're happy to pay whatever the hell Mark Dayton thinks you should pay?

Fortunately we now have a Republican legislature that will stop this insanity in its tracks. Helgeson and Stassen-Berger are correct that we're going to be looking at an epic legislative battle this year. We have to, because if Mark Dayton's proposal wins, Minnesota is going to lose.


W.B. Picklesworth said...

Oregon just tried this. As I recall, they had a solid one year increase in tax receipts and then revenue dove. People need about a year to vote with their feet or with whatever loopholes and shelters they can find. Brave Sir Mark Is attempting to destroy the long term tax base to reap a short term reward. Luckily there are adults in charge of the legislature.

Anonymous said...

I guess it's one tax increase or another. HF130 included hundreds of millions in property tax refund cuts, LGA cuts, and higher ed cuts. If Dayton doesn't raise income taxes, the Republican legislature will raise our property taxes and pretend it never happened.

Mr. D said...

the Republican legislature will raise our property taxes and pretend it never happened.

The Republican legislature cannot raise property taxes. Only local entities can raise property taxes. If a local entity has come to depend on revenue that is no longer forthcoming, it means hard choices have to be made.

Bike Bubba said...

Drive around our fair state and take a look at what's being bought with LGA and property taxes. Instead of the old metal signs announcing "Waseca, Population 8411" that we used to have, we get brick and stone signs welcoming us to town in most towns. The Arboretum near Victoria seems to have more buildings than trees. Chanhassen just built a high school about twice the size needed--an extra cost of about $1000 for every man, woman, and child in the school district.

And I haven't even started to talk about windmills, diversity programs, and the like. Yes, there is ample fat to be cut in local budgets.