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Commentary
State shutdown is over, but our campaign for fair taxes continues

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, July 29, 2011

By Bill McCarthy, President, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation

The end of the state shutdown means that our sisters and brothers who do the people’s work are back on the job. That’s a relief — not only for those state of Minnesota employees who were laid off but for everyone who counts on vital state services.

Governor Mark Dayton, in his words, reluctantly agreed to but did not “agree with” the Republican financing plan that closed the state budget shortfall. Thankfully, Dayton forcefully insisted that he would accept the financing plan only if the Republicans would drop a laundry list of extreme policy changes and also agree to a $500 million bonding bill to create jobs. They agreed.

Instead of Governor Dayton’s final proposal to ask only people who earn more than $1 million per year to pay more in state income taxes, the Republican plan closed the budget gap by again delaying payments to schools and by borrowing against future revenues from the state tobacco settlement.

The final budget spends $1.5 billion more than the Republicans originally wanted, but it still will bring painful cuts to services we Minnesotans depend on for our quality of life.

Fair taxes, quality public services, access to health care and living wage jobs should not be
partisan issues.

The cuts include, for example, a $23 million cut in Local Government Aid to the City of Minneapolis. One impact: the City will need to cut the 2011 street paving budget by 50 percent, leaving dangerous potholes unrepaired.

According to Mayor R.T. Rybak’s office, Local Government Aid to the City of Minneapolis has been cut a total of $352 million since 2002. The City has 10 percent fewer full-time positions than 10 years ago. And, the Mayor’s office notes, “because of LGA cuts, the burden of paying for basic services has shifted onto property taxes.”

Simple fairness requires that taxes should be based on ability to pay. That’s why labor has supported Governor Dayton’s call to increase income taxes on the top two percent of earners, so that the rich pay the same percentage of their income in state and local taxes as the middle class.

Governor Dayton has said he will continue to pursue this goal and so will the state’s labor movement.

Fair taxes, quality public services, access to health care and living wage jobs should not be partisan issues. These goals should be a common sense agenda that unites Democrats, Republicans, and independents on common ground.

The MRLF hosted 13 community meetings with Republican legislators in recent weeks seeking this common ground. If we can find common ground, we hoped, we can compromise and work together.

Where we can’t find common ground, where ideologues on a soapbox remain fixed in extreme positions and won’t compromise, then we’ll turn to the 2012 ballot box.

House District 41A, Edina, July 7: People applauded a speaker at a community meeting during the state shutdown organized by the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. While the meeting drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 people, District 41A Representative Keith Downey chose not to attend and sent a legislative aide in his place. The meeting was part of a series of 13 labor constituent meetings with state legislators organized by the MRLF in recent weeks.

 

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