Sunday, July 17, 2005

Love the fee you're with

Too much brouhaha is being made out of Tim Pawlenty’s cigarette “fee.” I really don’t see what the big deal is. I’m a good Republican. I go to my prescinct caucuses, I’ve written letters to the Star Tribune that have yet to get published, and I hate the idea of government getting bigger. But the way I see it, us Republicans got off pretty darn easy this past session.

Face it; we got spanked in the state House races. This was due mostly to Rep. Matt Entenza writing a $300,000 check to a 527 that campaigned under the radar against Republicans. For those keeping score, the state Senate, as it stands, is 36-31 with the DFL in the lead. For the House, it’s pretty much a dead heat with the Republicans holding a slim majority. Now, the GOP majority in the House is essentially a MINO (Majority In Name Only).

First we had Rep. Dan Dorman of Albert Lea. He was a moderate that was given the task to head up the bonding bill conference committee. Dorman let the power that came with the position, as well as the media attention, go to his head. Soon there were stories in the newspapers on Dorman and his rebellious attitude:

State Rep. Dan Dorman has bucked his Republican governor and House caucus on cuts in state aid to local governments and schools, made common cause with DFLers in a demand for a bigger state budget and broken with conservatives by supporting a minimum-wage increase. Lately he has hinted that he might not support Gov. Tim Pawlenty's plans to expand gambling unless there is compromise on other matters.

Dorman was actually a primary sponsor of one of those income tax cuts, but he said he went "off the reservation" early in the 2003 budget crisis, when he perceived that Pawlenty's proposals would disproportionately deprive rural and property-poor cities of Local Government Aid. He started speaking out against it and has gotten louder since.

Dorman's lonely fight since 2003 has made him "increasingly uncomfortable with my caucus but increasingly comfortable at home," he said. And he's not going to let up, he said.

"I see my role as the voice of moderation, the voice of Greater Minnesota, and there is no question that we are a bit more dependent on government."

Source: “Dorman relishes central role; 'Crazy tire dealer' in House bucks the GOP,” Star Tribune, April, 18 2005

Dorman was the straw that broke the majority’s back. Soon to follow was Rep. Ron Erhardt from Edina. One would think that an Edina Republican would be a fiscal conservative, and against such ludicrous acts as raising the gas tax. But no, Erhardt was the chief author in the House of a bill that would’ve increased the gas tax 20 cents a gallon.

The gas tax, as you may recall, was passed by the Republican controlled House and DFL controlled Senate. Luckily, Gov. Pawlenty vetoed it faster than you could say “Taxpayer’s League of Minnesota.” Pawlenty took a lot of heat for this, including from the conservative-leaning Chamber of Commerce. With all my economics courses I took in college, I still can’t figure out why business persons would want to pay more for shipping costs and other costs related to transportation.

Career-minded Republicans like Erhardt and Dorman were spooked by the DFL’s gains in 2004 and thought it best to play it safe by trying to appear moderate in order to keep their jobs. These two and other supposed Republicans like them made it very difficult for Pawlenty to get his agenda passed.

As the end of the session came about, Pawlenty obviously had no choice but to pull the cigarette fee out. There wasn’t a chance in hell that the likes of Dorman or Erhardt would’ve supported Pawlenty's proposed cuts in state subsidized health care.

So, fellow Republicans, before attacking Pawlenty, the most conservative Republican governor in ages, make sure you direct your anger at those who deserve it: the DFL incumbents and moderate, career-minded Republicans.

The best part about the cigarette fee is that it is actually a fee. All the money goes into a fund to pay for state subsidized health care, and roughly covers the cost of smoking related medical costs incurred by the state. And if that doesn’t work for you, here’s some advice from classic rocker Stephen Stills:

And if you can't be, with the pledge you love,
Love the fee you're with.


At 4:11 PM, Blogger Segretti said...

This site rules...

At 12:11 AM, Blogger sd42webmaster said...

Good points -- let's be mad at them all. The greedy DFL who would tax us at 100% if it it meant not losing money for any of their programs, the arrogant RINOs who couldn't care less about the activists that spent long hours getting them endorsed and elected, and lazy voters who don't take the time to get informed about state budget issues. All are to blame.

But you are wrong when you say: "Pawlenty obviously had no choice". He had a choice. The reason is: he had the better argument and, even if 51% of the House opposed him, he has the veto pen.

Bush #41: “Read my lips, no new taxes”

Pawlenty: “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem”

Do you remember what happened to Bush #41 ???

The lesson is clear. If you have the better argument, then fight them. Fight them! And never ever ever go back on a solemn promise. Matthew 5:37: “Let your yes be yes and your no be no". In other words, be true to your word.

Who have history books recorded as the hero, Chamberlain the politician, the appeaser, the guy who "had to govern"? Or Churchill, the Lion?

The trouble is now we have a governor who simply cannot be believed. We have a governor whose message we can no longer sell.

"We got the job done" -- is that the message you think is going to resonate? Of course you got the job done - you capitulated to the DFL. That will always get the job done. Unfortunately that is not leadership.

Can you tell me how increasing health care spending 15% is a victory? Oh, I see – the DFL wanted 19%. Big victory – do you want to know how big a raise most people in the real world got last year?

By the way, speaking as a party activist, what affect do you think this “deal” has had on volunteer recruitment? What affect do you think a party whose word stands for nothing will have on fundraising?

Why the hell do we spend all those long hours at caucuses, at senate distict conventions, in committees and at state conventions putting together a party platform?

Why do we spend all those hours away from our families, postponing vacations, dropping literature, going door to door, making phone calls, writing letters to the editor, pounding campaign signs, putting together mailings? So we can give in to the DFL and the RINOs? So we can break our promises?

He just made our job much much harder.

At 8:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SD42-- You cry and complain that the DFL is responsible for shutting down government because they held out to get what they thought was in the state's best interests. So DFL bad because they shut down government. Then you cry and complain that Pawlenty did NOT hold out to get what he thought was in the best interests of the state. So (in your view) Pawlenty compromised so Pawlenty bad. He should have held out and shut down government to get what you want? But the DFL is bad for doing so? Do you see inconsistency?

At 9:07 AM, Blogger Republican Minnesota said...


SD42, you are right, he did have a choice.

He could have let the state shutdown continue. After the 15th, the real shutdown would've happened, with the state laying off hard working state employees.

What was he supposed to say to these families: "I'm sorry, but I had to fire your daddy because my opponents and I disagree?!" That would've have been real responsible.

You see it as a tax, I see it as a fee because it goes into a fund to pay for smoking related health care costs. The fee is being incurred mostly by the people helped by state subsidized health care.

We do have a spending problem, but we have an education crisis as well. Which is more important to you?

At 9:29 AM, Blogger nk2134 said...

If Pawlenty had had his way, part of the "fee" would have gone to education. That was his original proposal. He also originally proposed raiding the Health Care Access Fund. It was only insistence from Dean Johnson and Linda Berglin that the "fee" is going to health care and the HCAF is retained.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger sd42webmaster said...

Minnesota spends less per person than only three other states. Three. According to the U.S. Census Bureau for 2004 ( only Hawaii, Wyoming, and Connecticut spend more per person.

Minnesota ranks 4th. We spend more per person than Wisconsin (ranked 12), Iowa (ranked 39), North and South Dakota (28th and 49th). Minnesota businesses are in direct competition with businesses in each of the neighboring states. Yet, compared to every one of our neighboring states, Minnesota businesses and families are at a disadvantage.

Everything you are concerned about -- schools, of course! -- can and should be addressed. I would add roads, crime prevention, health care. All worthy goals. But we have to do it within LIMITS. The DFL does not beleive in limits. And that's how we got to be the #4 highest taxed state.

You're playing by rules the rest of us cannot use. State general funding has more than doubled since 1990. How much is enough?

When my expenses go up, I cannot say to my employer: "The lousy raise you gave me is not enough." An 8 percent increase is greater than inflation and a greater increase than most people are seeing in their paychecks.

Minnesota taxpayers -- the businesses and families you rely on for those taxes -- are more generous than any other neighboring state. But, unlike our state government, their income is not unlimited. They have to make hard choices every day.

It's called living within your means. It's what Pawlenty campaigned on and it's what Republicans used to be about.

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Republican Minnesota said...


If you know a way for Pawlenty to get the DFL Senate and evenly divided House to drastically cut spending, please share it with the rest of the class.

You seem to be missing my central point that the GOP has little control in the legislature. Did you forget the DFL sweep of state House races?

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Kevin from Minneapolis said...

You guys should look at the overall balanced budget agreement and then see how well Republicans made off this year.

At 2:32 PM, Blogger sd42webmaster said...

What do you do when you have an irresponsible Senate and House? The answer is obvious. You take them on. You go over their heads like Reagan did on so many occasions. If you have the better argument, then you over the heads of the media and go directly to the people and you make that argument.

His pledge, by the way, did not say “unless the DFL shuts down the government” or “unless the DFL gains 13 seats in the House in 2004” or “unless I start getting bashed by the Star Tribune”.

The problem is not just that he broke his pledge and raised taxes, but something far more serious and damaging: the fact that he is no longer credible.

What are we to think when he draws a line in the sand and says that he will raise taxes if and only if at least two of four items are enacted and then walks away with nothing? That he means what he says?

Why should anyone believe it the next time Governor Pawlenty tells me we have a spending problem, not a tax problem? Why should anyone believe him when he stands at the annual tax rally and shouts “not one dime more!”? Why should the DFL not hold out the next time, knowing that eventually Swiggum and Pawlenty will buckle and give in to their blackmail?

You act as if we are in a weak position. We're not. We have two evenly divided houses and we have the governor. And - we have the better argument. Unfortunately we still lost. How did that happen?

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Republican Minnesota said...


The pledge said tax, not fee.

At 7:24 PM, Blogger sd42webmaster said...

Play your Orwellian games all you want. Using your logic we can tax fast food, gas, even income and call it all a "fee". Whatever makes you feel good. Most Republicans who voted for it openly understood it to be a tax.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Republican Minnesota said...

I must have missed the disclaimer on the pledge that said "tax" is subject to interpretation by anyone with an opinion.

This is a fee because it goes into a dedicated fund that is to be used only for covering smoking related costs incurred by the taxpayers. The money can not be transferred into the general fund and is in the state statute as a fee.

At 11:30 PM, Blogger sd42webmaster said...

Sure, sure - listen, no one is buying it.

A "gas fee" is a fee that covers the cost of building multi-billion dollar transit systems and a "fast food fee" covers the medical costs of people who don't eat healthy diets. The residents of Hennepin County won't be handing over sales tax money to Carl Pohlad, why it's just an "entertainment fee".

And how about an "income surcharge" to pay for the costs associated with hiring more police and firefighters (it's not a tax, you see, we're just going to call it a "surcharge" - that makes it okay).

The point is that, for the first time in a long time we had a governor who had a chance. He had a chance to make his case to the people of Minnesota. Is Minnesota's government too large or too small? Well, apparently, despite everything he has said until this day, it is too small.

By the way, SCSU Scholars blog has an excellent discussion of the economics of cigarette taxation if you're interested. Basically, smokers are ALREADY paying more than their cost to society.

....and, no, I am not a smoker.

At 6:45 AM, Blogger Republican Minnesota said...

Even David Strom conceded to me my points on how the legislative process and so-called Republicans like Dorman and Erhardt helped bring us to this point. When you have Republicans like these acting like Democrats, effectively wiping out are majority there, it’s hard to get anything done.

I don’t like the idea of government getting bigger, but I understand how St. Paul works.

I think it’s more than you feeling portrayed. Rather, you are just another Pawlenty-hating Brian Sullivan supporter that just can’t get over the fact that Pawlenty won the endorsement.

At 8:11 AM, Blogger sd42webmaster said...

Nope - you're wrong. I was (and still am) a huge Pawlenty fan. I am simply telling you that from the point of view of many activists in our party, our gov has made a serious left turn, a critical mistake.

I'm not the only one who is making these observations. For just a few links, you can see the bottom of David Strom's post.

If it is never okay to criticize a fellow Republican, then I guess all the people who today are criticizing Tom Tancredo's "bomb Mecca" remarks are wrong as well. If I see an "R" next to the name, they are never wrong.

At 11:41 PM, Anonymous dan dorman said...

What color is the sky in your world? I have not changed just since I have been elected. How do you know which campaign promises to keeep? Gov. Pawlenty promised not to cut LGA and when he was in the House and the majority leader he called putting money in the program a tax cut, so then taking the money back out would be a tax increase. The budget resolution I supported would have raised taxes less than were called for under the Gov. plan.


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