The state's GOP has lost its way - and many party veterans know it

  • Article by: WAYNE COX
  • Updated: May 26, 2011 - 10:16 PM

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This is not your mother's Minnesota Republican Party over at the Legislature, which broke up Monday night without a budget deal.

And judging from what they are proposing to do to the elderly, it isn't your grandmother's Republican Party, either.

Some of the sharpest criticism of legislation adopted by the Republican majorities has come from those who held elective office as members of Your Mother's GOP.

Former Gov. Arne Carlson helped create MinnesotaCare. It provides affordable health care for 160,000 Minnesotans. GOP legislation would turn it into a voucher system.

The Star Tribune covered a Carlson speech:

"Carlson said the vouchers would be so paltry that recipients would have to choose between high-cost plans they could not afford or no insurance at all. 'Lives will be lost.'

"'Sure, ask someone making $8,000 a year to buy a plan with a $1,000 deductible,' Carlson scoffed."

Duane Benson served as Senate minority leader during the 1990s. He now heads the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation. He told the Star Tribune it "truly boggles the mind" that the GOP majorities stripped "every syllable of every early education reform" from this year's legislation.

Dave Jennings was an excitable House Speaker in the mid-1980s before he developed a passion to improve schools and served as school superintendent in Minneapolis and later in Chaska.

He described, in a Star Tribune commentary, how Minnesota sensibly provides special funding to the school districts in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth to reduce the achievement gap faced by the high levels of low-income students in those districts.

He dislikes legislation passed by the GOP that would take the achievement gap money from the urban districts and redistribute it to schools statewide.

He wrote: "The proposed solution appears to be a cynical effort, designed to look like help for suburban and rural schools (represented by Republicans) while crippling programs aimed at poor kids in three urban districts (represented by Democrats) and all without producing a real solution for anybody."

Former Rep. Dan Dorman served in the last decade. Now he is executive director of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency.

He came to the Capitol along with leaders of eight Chambers of Commerce from around the state to support Gov. Mark Dayton's effort to secure new revenue to head off cuts to Local Government Aid. MinnPost reported:

"It was a message from Greater Minnesota that deep reductions to Local Government Aid, as proposed in the GOP bills, would do one thing: increase local property taxes.

The Department of Revenue estimates the GOP tax legislation would increase property taxes on homeowners and businesses by $1.2 billion between now and 2014.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers held his own press conference and said Republicans would be raising no taxes -- period. He said if local governments raised property taxes in response to cuts in Local Government Aid, that was their decision, not his.

The U.S. Supreme Court has deemed corporations are persons. It may have to give the same status to renters. That would help Speaker Zellers remember the $180 million increase in net taxes on renters he and his caucus have voted for by cutting the renters' credit.

The leaders of the Not Your Mother's Republican Party don't have to listen anymore to former Republican Gov. Al Quie, who has long argued that balanced solutions of some taxes and some cuts are appropriate ways to deal with tough projected deficits.

Nor to former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger, who sought in vain to get former Gov. Tim Pawlenty to support sensible health solutions.

These two leaders were purged from the Minnesota Republican Party for the crime of sometimes supporting candidates who do not subscribe to the litmus test of shrinking government until it can fit into a bathtub and be drained away.

The dirty little secret of the Not Your Mother's Minnesota Republican Party is that it takes marching orders not from local chambers of commerce in Waseca or Windom, but from Washington, D.C., groups that try to impose "no new taxes" pledges, that apparently have nice property tax escape clauses.

Gov. Dayton's tax plan nicks those at the top instead of those at the middle, in order to keep more Minnesotans working, with access to health care, and to keep pace with preparing workers and the economy for the future.

Several states have raised taxes at the top to keep their universities, their health care and their economies whole. The Minnesota Poll says that's the approach most Minnesotans are looking for.

Wayne Cox is executive director of Minnesota Citizens for Tax Justice.

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