ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Lawmakers’ fight over taxes and spending spilled out during a contentious committee hearing Wednesday that demonstrated the wide divide between Republicans and Democrats working to plug a $5 billion deficit in Minnesota’s state budget.

Their arguments over Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton’s plan to raise income taxes on Minnesota’s top earners dominated a short hearing of the House Taxes Committee, leaving time for only four of the 42 people who signed up to testify.

“This was all a sham,” Rep. Michael Paymar, a St. Paul Democrat who introduced Dayton’s plan as a bill, said at the end of the hearing.

The meeting reflected what has become the defining divide of this year’s legislative session: whether to erase the deficit with a Republican-backed plan that clamps down on state spending or through a mix of spending cuts and reductions with Dayton’s income tax hike plan.

With only about 40 days left in the regular legislative session, Dayton and the GOP don’t just lack accord on a budget-balancing approach, they can’t even agree on a set of numbers on which to base their negotiations.

Earlier this week, several Dayton budget officials notified Republican leaders that the series of budget bills making up the GOP plan don’t actually amount to a balanced budget. The Republican bills are based on “incomplete information, unsubstantiated assumptions, and inaccurate fiscal estimates,” wrote Budget Commissioner Jim Showalter and Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans.

In all, they wrote, the Republican bills fall $1.2 billion short of erasing the $5 billion deficit.

Republicans counter that the financial analyses are underestimating the amount that can be saved by government efficiencies and freedom from federal spending mandates that they hope Dayton will seek.

The four people who got time to testify during Wednesday’s committee hearing said cuts and spending reductions in the GOP proposals would wipe out the state’s social safety net.

Cindy Johnson, a real estate agent and advocate for the disabled from Woodbury, said the GOP plan would take away the state services that her 26-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy relies on to live a semi-independent life.

“Why every year are we back to this point: that it’s the people who can speak up the least that are asked to bear the biggest burden?” Johnson asked, as her daughter sat beside her in a wheelchair.

Republicans have stuck to an argument that increasing income taxes would give Minnesota one of the nation’s highest tax rates, which they call poisonous to attracting and keeping new businesses.

“It looks really good to demagogue the rich,” said Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina. His comments drew shouts of opposition from a woman in the audience at the hearing, prompting committee chairman Rep. Greg Davids to ask security officers to remove that person from the hearing.

Davids said afterwards that members of the public would be allowed to comment on Dayton’s tax plan at future hearings. But, he said, there’s not the votes to get an income-tax hike through his committee or the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Davids said he believes Dayton and Republicans can get over the current stalemate. “I’m the eternal optimist,” Davids said.

Dayton, speaking with reporters after a St. Paul roundtable meant to highlight proposed Republican higher education cuts, reaffirmed the message in the letter from his commissioners that it’s difficult to engage the Republican budget proposal because they see it as incomplete.

“There were over 919,000 votes for my tax proposal last November from the people of Minnesota, and that’s why I’m here today,” Dayton said. “They understood what I’m proposing. And I got more votes than anybody else in that election. So I think my mandate is not from 201 legislators, with all due respect. My mandate is from the people of Minnesota.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (23)
  1. tom hasbrouck says:

    Why does the GOP so vigorously fight for the rich at the expense of everyone else? Oh yeah I forgot… they’re all bought and paid for. My bad…

    1. blah says:


      Who do you consider rich? Because the last time I checked, Dayton thinks anyone above the $150,000 bracket is rich and should be taxed an extra 2.5%

      I’m so sorry, but I do not consider myself rich. I have a house payment, car payment, and everything else to keep my D:I ratio below 30%. For all my hard work, I guess I have to work harder because people are always after my cash.

      Anything I have made I’ve earned. I have never taken handouts and I do not have an entitlement mentality. I think Minnesota has a LOT of entitlements they need to cut before even considering an income tax increase. Entitlement programs have become so wasteful, it makes me phsically ill.

      It’s funny that you think only the GOP is lobbied by rich folks. I guess you seem to forget people like Soros.

  2. shirley says:

    they talk about welfare recipient’s being freeloaders,is that different from the wealthy freeloading by their tax breaks?

    1. Brian T says:

      Shirley, you must be confused. Since when is allowing people to keep what they WORKED for, freeloading? It’s THEIR money!! If anyone is freeloading, it’s the government off of them.

      You liberals are a confused lot.

    2. Not wealthy says:

      shirley. I don’t call myself wealthy but the wealthy are entitled to have LEGAL taxbreaks, regardless if you like them or not! I would assume freeloaders on the receiving end don’t work for their “money” and some wealthy people don’t work for their money (but most of the wealthy do work for their money) but invest it wisely and pay their taxes, even though they have tax breaks that the state and feds gave them and the tax breaks are legal for them!

  3. Susie says:

    Democrats are right, we’ve made all the cuts that we can. We need to get back onto the path of success and start taxing the rich, so we can pay our teachers what they are worth, give the poor the benefits they deserve, and fix the roads.

    1. Brian says:

      We’ve made all the cuts we can? Seriously? They’ve barely touched anything.

      How and why do the poor deserve anything? So, if you lose your job, are lazy, and/or have no applicable job skills, the rest of the tax paying Minnesotans are obligated to care for their ineptness?

      If you feel so strongly about helping the poor, maybe you should volunteer to donate more of your money that you or your family earns. After all, you libs tend to think that people that have a comfortable living and earn good money got there because they stepped on the backs of others. So, shore up some cash from your stock pile you greedy heartless person, you.

      1. Dave says:

        Amen Brian.
        Generally the people who scream so loudly for tax increases are the ones that already pay ZERO and have no chance of making anymore money due to lack of ambition. That is what has made America what it is today, a strong entreapunieral spirit. These steap tax rates and having people thnk you are evil for making anything more than $50,000 a year makes that ambition go away. I am definitly not rich but I believe if you have worked hard and have created a good busiiness that amakes money you should be allowed to keep as much as possible and not be blasted for it. Business’s are in business to create a profit not create jobs for people like Susie who just complain about how bad they have it.

      2. Hannah says:

        I agree with you Brian except for one thing….. if you lose your job, sometimes able bodied people cannot help it! My husband is a very hard worker and he is being let go because the board of directors are closing the business. His boss gave him a really nice evaluation on his job but sometimes they have to do what they have to do! No fault of my husband’s. He will be turning 62 in June and still will try and find another job regardless….. but because of his age, he probably will find only a part time job or maybe no job! My point is that some people can’t help if they have no job. We have enough money in our portfolio as investments and his 401 K so we don’t have to be living off the government, except for social security that we have paid into the past 45 years!

    2. dave says:

      How do you figure you have taken all the cuts you can take? The budget has almost doubled over the past two years and they only cut $30 billion out of a $1.6 TRILLION deficit for this year alone. Are liberals so foolish they dont see this. Why doesnt this country switch to a flat tax of 15% for everyone, no deductions or tax loopholes. If you make $10,000 you pay $1,500 at the end of the year. If you make 10,000,000 you pay $1,500,000. I think liberals get confused because almost 40% of people have ZERO income tax resposibility, they pay nothing because they do not make enough. Than you have the rich who the top 5% pay 60% of the taxes and everyone wants more? For a political party who preaches fairness how is this even close to fair. Keep strangling the golden goose and they wont lay any more eggs!!!

    3. dave says:

      Here is an excellent example of tax cuts so that even liberlas can understand how they work.
      I was having lunch with one of my favorite clients last week and the conversation turned to the government’s recent round of tax cuts.

      ‘”I’m opposed to those tax cuts,” the retired college instructor declared, “because they

      benefit the rich.” “The rich get much more money back than ordinary taxpayers like you and me and that’s not fair.”

      “But the rich pay more in the first place,” I argued, “so it stands to reason that they’d get more money back.”

      I could tell that my friend was unimpressed by this meager argument. “So,” I said to him, “let’s put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand.”

      “Suppose that every day 10 men go to a restaurant for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If it were paid the way we pay our taxes, the first four men would pay nothing; the fifth would pay $1; the sixth would pay $3; the seventh $7; the eighth $12; the ninth $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.”

      The 10 men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement until the owner threw them a curve. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20.” Now dinner for the 10 only costs $80. The first four are unaffected. They still eat free. Can you figure out how to divvy up the $20 savings among the remaining six so that everyone gets his fair share? The men realize that $20 divided by 6 is $3.33, but if they subtract that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being paid to eat their meal.

      The restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same percentage, being sure to give each a break, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay. Now the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of $59.

      Outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. “I only got a dollar out of the $20,” complained the sixth man, pointing to the tenth, “and he got $7!”

      “Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got seven times more than me!”

      “That’s true,” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

      “Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison. “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor.”

      Then, the nine men surrounded the tenth man (the richest one, paying the most) and beat him up. The next night the richest man didn’t show up for dinner, so now the nine men sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They were $52 short!

      “And that, boys, girls, and college instructors, is how America’s tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table any more. There are lots of good restaurants in Switzerland and the Caribbean.”

    4. Rob says:


      Exactly what benefits do the poor deserve and what gives you the right to decide what that is? I am so tired of funding the welfare state. Why do you think people come from the South and Illinois to live in Minnesota? To live off the taxpayers! Then people like you are surprised when a KSTP-TV investigation shows that MN Welfare debit cards have been used in nearly every state at liquor stores and casinos. One debit card’s use was traced several merchants in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Are these really benefits the poor deserve? This sounds like outright fraud of the system to me!

    5. Hannah says:

      There you go again….’TAXING THE RICH’! We are paying our fair share of taxes!!

  4. Tim says:

    The GOP is promoting job growth as a large percentage of folks who make over 150k are small business owners and leaving more money in their pockets allows them to invest in their business. Taxing them is a sure fire way to push our economy towards recession.

    1. Brian says:

      Yeah, but Tim, little kids will starve without EBT funding; there will be thousands of children roaming the streets because they won’t be able to attend school; the elder will die off in massive numbers; the poor won’t be able to work due to them getting sick from not having medical coverage and not having public transportation; the infrastructure will deteriorate; and every imaginable worst case scenario will come true if we keep cutting “Vital” services…. (Heavy SARCASM)

      That’s usually the trite hyperbole that I always here from the left when you even hint at budget cuts.

      Oh, and the GOP just loves giving money to the abhorrent rich folk that got rich off the backs of the average Joe.

  5. Bruce says:

    Watching the Democrats fighting for their precious tax hikes is about as much fun as watching a junkie fighting for a fix as they’re going cold turkey. And it’s about the same behavior patterns as well. I say hold firm, they’ll eventually wake up onemorning, and the burnign need for a tax hike will be gone and they’ll feel better thant hey ever did in all their lives.

  6. Tom says:

    The more important question is why are “middle class conservatives” so adament on protecting the “rich” and feel bad for them if you mention raising their taxes?

    Maybe because “middle class conservatives” think that the “rich” feel “their” pain also. NOT!

    The Middle class drives the economy not the “rich”

    1. dave says:

      Because the “rich” is not well defined. Who are you to say who is “rich”. Dayton thinks anyone who make 6 figures is “rich”. That is just not true. So before you go spouting off on your crazy ideas. Sit down and think for a minute about what you are saying. Ok pumpkin.

    2. steve says:

      Yes the middle class drive the economy, but the rich give the middle class something to drive. You should try to bring the bottom up instead of the top down.

  7. Lenny says:

    As an American I do not want to see anyones taxes going up. The tax system is so messed up it needs to be greatly simplfied. How can anyone say begin to argue about fair share when no one knows how much anyone really pays. If it is true that the top 5% pay 95% of the taxes then I would say that is more than their fair share. Its time for a new tax system where everyone pays their ‘fair share’. We need to create wealth not redistribute it.

      1. Lenny says:

        I like it but the accountants won’t.

  8. Who are these people? says:

    I’d really like to see the situations of so many of these people who want to raise taxes that comment in here. I really believe they are in the 50% who don’t pay federal taxes and those who pay no state taxes. I can’t believe we’d even think about raising taxes before the all the fat and corruption is removed. I get the sense that these people think they have been dealt a bad hand in life and the way to get back at those who weren’t is to take some of their money by force. Really those folks are no better than common criminals. I’d bet these whiners all live above their means and will never, ever get ahead in life with such bad attitudes.

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