Governor ‘Veto’ and His Amazing Superpower!

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“House approves gas tax increase despite Pawlenty veto threat”

“Tim Pawlenty has threatened to veto any income tax increase”

“…a license tab fee increase and a metro sales tax for transit will face his veto pen, Pawlenty said”

“Minnesota Gov. Threatens Veto Over Gay Partner Benefits”

“Pawlenty has threatened to veto any bill that raises state taxes”

“Pawlenty is willing to veto the entire state government finance bill”

“Pawlenty says he’ll veto the bills”

“Governor Pawlenty has promised a veto”

And it goes on and on and on and on — at least 290 times in a recent Google News search of the words “Pawlenty” plus “veto”.

Let’s see, California Gov. Arnold “Schwarzenegger” plus “veto”: 181 results. Wisconsin Gov. Jim “Doyle” plus “veto”: 90 results. North Dakota Gov. John “Hoeven” plus “veto”: 6 results. Iowa Gov. Chet “Culver” plus “veto”: 5 results.

Could there be a bit of dysfunction in the North Star state, the land of Minnesota nice?

Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I always thought that good leaders were masters of compromise. Their views may differ from the wishes of the legislature and even from the prevailing mood of the populace, but if so there was usually a good reason.

Legislatures can be overtly political, even run sometimes by crusading powerbrokers. But that doesn’t appear today to be the case.

The public can be fickle, focusing on short-term issues of the day. But it seems today’s Minnesotans are looking to their government for long-term solutions.

Minnesota voters were very clear in the last election: The Minnesota House of Representatives is now 63 percent DFL controlled, and the Minnesota Senate 66 percent. Yet the governor received less than 47 percent of the popular vote. Were there a two-way race or a runoff, it’s likely he would have lost. In other words, Minnesota voters preferred DFL candidates for House and Senate seats almost 20 percent more than for governor.

And yet the governor feels it’s his right — perhaps his duty — to go against the wishes of the voters. And the reasons, in his own words?

“They’re raising a bucketload of taxes and that isn’t the kind of approach that is going to yield a constructive and smooth end to the session” (Minnesota Public Radio).

“We don’t have a tax problem, we have a spending problem” (Mankato Free Press).

“It looks like a legislative Taxapalooza” (Minneapolis Star Tribune).

“You don’t celebrate getting out of Weight Watchers by going over to the all-you-can-eat buffet. So our message to the Legislature is: Push away from the table. Put your fork down.” (Rochester Post-Bulletin)

In other words, it’s “appealing to the tax cutters, stupid!” Never mind the overall consensus of fiscal experts that proper investment in the state’s economy is the best course of action.

The arguments for a sane state fiscal policy are well explained by the Center for a Prosperous, Fair & Sustainable Minnesota Economy, also known as Growth & Justice. The best state fiscal policies are based on investment in the future, progressive taxation, reasonable spending and honest accounting. Unfortunately, state policy under former Gov. Jesse Ventura and Gov. Pawlenty has been just the opposite.

The myths of Governor “Veto”

Gov. Pawlenty claims that the well-to-do pay a disproportionate share of taxes. Not true.

Since 1999 the state has been shifting its tax burden from the most well-off to everyone else. In particular, property taxes, fees, and state college and university tuition, which affect primarily the lower and middle classes, have increased dramatically while overall taxes on the very wealthy have decreased. (Don’t take my word for it. Even the state’s Revenue Department says so.)

Growth & Justice notes that those earning $45,000 per year pay about 12 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Yet those earning 10 times that much, $450,000 per year, pay only 8 percent in state and local taxes — a full one-third less percentage-wise!

The governor says that lower taxes mean stronger growth. Again, a false claim.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has shown that tax-cut policies create weaker, not stronger, economies. Growth & Justice points out that from 1991 to 1998, when Minnesota had relatively higher tax rates, its economy outgrew the national average 5.2 percent to 4.4 percent . Yet from 1998 to 2005, during the era of rebates and tax cuts, Minnesota’s growth rate was just equal to the national average. The data are quite clear that tax cuts do not create sustainable growth.

So when the governor says he’s going to veto a bill that shifts the tax burden from middle and lower income Minnesotans to higher income Minnesotans, that veto has no basis in rational fact.

So why does he keep repeating the same mantra? Is he trying to protect some outmoded, long disproved economic argument? Is he trying to help his wealthy friends and campaign contributors? Is he making a play for higher office?

Yes, I can see him how in his red suit, cape flying behind in the stiff breeze, a black “V” emblazoned upon his chest.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Governor “Veto” and his amazing veto superpower.

Stay tuned for the next exciting installment, “Could the truth be Governor Veto’s kryptonite?” Warning: Viewer discretion advised due to excessive political rhetoric.