Hundreds of Minnesotans crammed the state capitol Monday to call on lawmakers to raise revenue to fund critical public services. They applauded Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher’s call to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a new tax bill.
On Friday, House and Senate DFLers passed a $1 billion tax bill that would have raised taxes on the wealthy, on alcohol and on credit companies that charged excessive rates. Pawlenty, a Republican, vetoed the bill within hours.
“The governor vetoed hope for our schools. He vetoed hope for our hospitals. He vetoed hope for our nursing homes and long-term care facilities,” Anderson Kelliher told the crowd. “We know what we need to do. We need to override!” Her remarks were followed by loud cheers and a chant of “Override, override.”
Monday’s demonstration was organized by labor, faith, community and other groups as part of the “Invest in Minnesota” campaign. The organizations are seeking a fair way to raise more state revenue to fund schools, health care and other public services.
The state faces a projected two-year budget shortfall of nearly $5 billion. Pawlenty has said he opposes any tax increases to address the deficit.
“Minnesota still ranks high in a number of areas, and many Minnesotans are doing well,” the groups say on the Invest in Minnesota website. “But we’re slipping. Confronted with budget deficits starting in 2002, the Legislature enacted considerable cuts in funding, causing Minnesota to lose ground compared to other states.”
Currently, Minnesota’s economy is performing more poorly than the national average and spending in areas such as higher education and housing has dropped significantly, the groups said.
At the rally, emergency medical technicians and school employees mingled with office workers and nurses. They held up signs reading “Make taxes fair” and chanted, “We’re ready to invest.”
They filled out postcards addressed to Pawlenty, urging “adequate funding to maintain essential services.” After the event, people fanned out across the Capitol to meet with lawmakers.