Neither GOP nor DFL has a mandate

  • Article by: BOB CARNEY JR.
  • Updated: June 29, 2011 - 10:18 PM

Whatever was Tom Emmer talking about? In any case, here's a by-the-people way out of the impasse.

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We are at a budget impasse. It can and must be resolved.

Unfortunately, Tom Emmer, last year's Republican nominee, apparently doesn't agree ("Republicans must not back down," June 28). He wants to keep fighting. Emmer claims an "overwhelming" Republican legislative mandate.

"When the dust settled after the [2010] election," Emmer writes, "Minnesota voters overwhelmingly elected Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. Mark Dayton was elected governor by the slimmest of margins, approximately 8,000 votes out of 2.2 million cast."

Let's look at the facts. According to figures published on the Secretary of State's website, total statewide votes cast for Republican and DFL candidates for the Legislature broke down as follows:


• Republicans candidates: 1,036,019 votes (50.99%)

• DFL candidates: 995,853 votes (49.01%)

Republicans won by just under two percentage points.

* * *


• Republican candidates: 1,021,633 votes (50.41%)

• DFL candidates: 1,005,132 votes (49.59%)

Republicans won by less than one percentage point.

Now let's look at the dictionary (Webster's): Overwhelm -- "to cover over completely (as by a great wave), overflow and bury beneath ... to overcome by great superiority of force or numbers: bring to ruin ..."

Margins of 1 and 2 percent are not "overwhelming."

Minnesota was closely divided in the last election. Neither the governor nor the legislative majorities have a "mandate."

"We the people" sent a mixed message.

Under these circumstances, here's a three-step solution that everyone should be able to live with:

• First, the Legislature should be reconvened to pass a temporary continuing budget for one or two months. That will make a shutdown unnecessary.

• Second, Dayton and the DFL caucus should draft complete budget legislation (something they haven't done yet), including in it a two-year, temporary income tax surcharge restoring the 1998 levels.

The middle tax bracket would increase by about 1 percent of income; the other brackets would increase by less than 1 percent. With an additional half a percent on the top bracket (up to 9 percent) total new revenue would be about $1.9 billion -- roughly the tax increase amount Dayton has sought.

• Third, the Legislature and Dayton should approve a one-time referendum, asking voters whether they want the Dayton/DFL plan or the Republicans' no-new-taxes, all-cuts budget. Although the referendum would be advisory, both Dayton and the GOP legislative majorities would need to agree in advance to abide by the result.

This plan can resolve our current situation. The first section of the Minnesota Constitution's Bill of Rights reads: "OBJECT OF GOVERNMENT. Government is instituted for the security, benefit and protection of the people, in whom all political power is inherent, together with the right to alter, modify or reform government whenever required by the public good."

In short, our Constitution recognizes that all political power is inherent in the people of Minnesota. Didn't the Republican Legislature make this a central argument in claiming the people should vote on the question of gay marriage?

The same principle applies to our need to have a budget. The alternative -- a government shutdown -- is literally unconstitutional. It defeats the purpose of having a government -- to provide for the security, benefit and protection of the people.

Republican legislators should be able to accept a temporary increase if it is approved by the people. After all, they represent us. And one advantage of an income tax surcharge is that it is easy to reverse. Changing the sales tax system would be more complicated.

Both Dayton and our "let-the-people-decide" Republican legislators can honorably accept the people's decision. This is a temporary fix but under our present circumstances, it's needed.

We can look to the 2012 legislative elections to resolve the budget situation going forward. The Republicans will have until then to develop a more realistic "no new taxes" budget.

My hope is that we will choose to insist on across-the-board renegotiated contracts for all providers of government services. I don't think Minnesotans want our government to do less.

However, we do want equity in pay, benefits and job security between the public and private sectors. But realigning public and private sector compensation takes time.

A temporary tax surcharge, like Gov. Al Quie's in the 1980s, can buy us the time we need.

We need a functioning government -- not a "bring to ruin" mentality.

Bob Carney Jr., of Minneapolis, finished second in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2010.

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