Minnesota’s governor takes a page out of the Obama playbook

Joshua Culling Government Affairs Manager, Americans for Tax Reform
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Last week, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) opted to shut down state government rather than accept a Republican budget that cuts spending and avoids tax increases. It appears the governor is taking a page out of the Obama playbook by insisting on massive tax increases while ignoring the fact that a Republican legislature refuses to budge on the issue.

News this week suggests that Minnesota will begin to mirror Washington, D.C. even more closely. With the blessing of Gov. Dayton, an allegedly “bipartisan commission” will be created to study Minnesota’s budget crisis and suggest solutions. We’ve seen this movie before, most recently when President Obama created the Simpson-Bowles commission to make recommendations on how to solve America’s debt crisis. Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, was the token tax-hiking Republican handpicked to put GOP fingerprints on a multitrillion-dollar tax increase.

The useful idiot in Minnesota’s iteration is former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson, who joined former presidential candidate Walter Mondale in creating the commission. In Carlson’s case, the “former” qualifier applies both to his status as governor and as a Republican. He endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election and has backed a long list of Democrats for office in recent years.

Make no mistake about it: Carlson’s commission will propose massive tax increases to balance Minnesota’s budget. This is why Gov. Dayton supports the commission’s participation in this academic exercise. It’s the same reason why Alan Simpson is Barack Obama’s favorite Republican: He makes liberal exploitation of the concept of bipartisanship possible.

Carlson in particular has a long history of meddling in the affairs of his successors. In 2003, 2008 and again in 2009 he urged Gov. Tim Pawlenty to submit to the Democrats and raise taxes to “solve” the state’s overspending problem. Because Pawlenty instead insisted on controlling spending, Carlson has been a lingering critic of Pawlenty for the past decade.

Meanwhile, Minnesota’s Republican legislature has passed a balanced budget that does not raise taxes. Republicans have offered to work with the governor to iron out any differences. But they absolutely will not vote to raise taxes. The line in the sand has been drawn, and for good reason. Without taking tax increases off the table, state government will have zero incentive to get spending under control. Minnesota Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch should be applauded for their principled stands, just as conservatives have recognized the leadership of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell in standing up to the Obama agenda.

The Simpson-Bowles debt commission report was voted down in D.C. The next logical step for those who wish to provide Republican cover for the Democrats’ tax-and-spend agenda is to create similar commissions in state capitals across the country. St. Paul is the most prominent case to date, but with the continued leadership of the Republican House and Senate in Minnesota, Mark Dayton’s billions of dollars in tax increases will go the way of Barack Obama’s trillions.

Joshua Culling is state affairs manager at Americans for Tax Reform, which fights for lower, flatter and fairer taxes. He coordinates ATR’s advocacy efforts in 17 states.