As 2012 comes to a close, all of our elected officials would have at the top of their Christmas wish lists a desire for safe schools, safe offices, and safe shopping malls, to name the places where recent gun violence has taken innocent lives. But on a lighter note, our state politicians do have their own individual Christmas wish lists, some of which are publically discussed and some of which are yet to be revealed. With the 2013 legislative session starting on Tuesday, Jan. 8, it is time to make these Christmas wishes public.
First, at the top of Governor Mark Dayton's wish list would be a whopping income tax increase, making Minnesota's income tax rate the highest in the nation. His 2011 income tax proposal only put Minnesota's top tax tier in second place, behind Hawaii. When you are Governor Dayton, why settle for second place?
Our legislative leaders have also made out their Christmas wish lists. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) really does want to be Santa Claus and to hand out lots of state tax money to local government with the hope of lowering property taxes. No better way to buy the friendships of mayors and county commissioners than to give them lots of taxpayer funded state aid. Perhaps this spending will help build connections for Bakk's own future gubernatorial aspirations.
Because the House members are up for election in just two short years, Speaker-designee Representative Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) will be wishing for a House Session that looks organized, efficient and capable of completing its work on time. Thissen also has told Santa he wants to be Governor some day, and a productive session will help his wishes come true.
But the gubernatorial election wish is not just for Democrats. Senate Minority Leader David Hann's (R-Eden Prairie) wish this year is he can emerge as the Republican alternative to Governor Dayton. Senator Hann hopes the Capitol press corps will print his every word, so he can build his name identification and conservative following in order to garner the Republican gubernatorial endorsement in 2014.
Rounding out the Christmas wishes of our legislative leaders is House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown). He is wishing that the Democrats will overreach on numerous tax and spend legislation which in turn will bring Minnesota voters rushing back into the Republican column in the 2014 elections.
But there are lots of other legislators who have been asking Santa Claus to make their wishes come true too!
House Tax Chair Ann Lenczewski's (DFL-Bloomington) Christmas wish is to have a rosy February state budget forecast, with lots of additional resources in the state's coffers. While Rep. Lenczewski will certainly support tax increases if she has to, unlike many of her DFL colleagues she does not relish the idea of raising lots of taxes just for the sake of more spending.
Senator Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont), chief author of the Viking stadium bill, is wishful that after a slow start, electronic pull tabs will soon bring in lots more revenue. Several of her colleagues from both sides of the political aisle were skeptical that this funding source would generate enough revenue to pay for the state's share of the stadium's costs, and she hopes to prove them wrong.
Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) wishes that instead of Christmas it was Ground Hogs Day, and he could have a do over on the redistricting process and the placing of constitutional amendments on the ballot.
Choo choo trains have long been on lots of boys and girls Christmas list. This year Senate Transportation Committee Chair Scott Dibble's (DFL-Minneapolis) wishes for more than one train. The Southwest corridor light rail line is on the top of his Christmas list, but he also wants an increase in the metro sales tax to help pay for more trains. It seems train lovers are never satisfied.
Senator John Marty (DFL-Roseville) has long wished for a single payer health care system, but until he can get that at the federal level, Sen. Marty is wishing for a state based single payer system here in Minnesota. While not necessarily a fan of the state's future Health Insurance Exchange, given that 60 percent of our Minnesota population will now be eligible for a federal subsidy to "purchase" insurance on a Minnesota Exchange, Senator Marty will likely consider this a first installment on his Christmas wish list.
And finally, with 58 newly elected state legislators, their Christmas wish list includes a nice office, capable staff, and some bacon to bring home with the hope of an easy re-election in 2014.
But at last, hopefully, there are some legislators who share my Christmas wish that our Minnesota businesses will not be burdened with ever increasing state regulations and government mandates, and that hard working Minnesotans don't have more of their wages confiscated to pay for an ever growing number of wasteful state government programs.
Phil Krinkie, a former eight-term Republican state rep from Lino Lakes who chaired the House Tax Committee for a while, is president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.