The Minnesota Tax Cut Coalition held its annual rally at the State Capitol on Saturday, drawing a crowd of about 1,000 people demanding that legislators stop "wasteful'' spending and allow Minnesotans to keep more of their paychecks.

Government funding to support light rail transit, the social safety net and the Twins ballpark were among the targets of complaints among the crowd, which spilled across the Capitol lawn.

"Why should I pay for something I'm not going to use?" asked Ed Hanson, of Mendota Heights, referring to the light-rail line. "I want the government out of my life.''

But Matt Entenza, a former DFL legislator who now heads a think tank called Minnesota 2020, said the protesters had it wrong. For starters, he said, Minnesota is not one of the highest-taxed states in the nation if researchers consider all taxes, including fees, local property taxes and special assessments. Minnesota ranks number 32 in the nation when the broader taxes are included, he said.

"The cost of a no-tax system is horrible schools, horrible health care, horrible roads,'' Entenza said.

Derrick Lehrke, a Republican activist from Cottage Grove, had more than tax cuts on his mind. He told the crowd he'd rather buy an engagement ring for his girlfriend than spend his money on taxes.

The shocked young woman made her way to the microphone and accepted the engagement ring that Lehrke pulled out of his jacket. After an embrace and an enthusiastic applause from the audience, they quickly left the stage.

Specific taxes aside, the rally also focused attention on the six Republican legislators in the House who voted to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of the transportation bill that raised gas taxes. Phil Krinkie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, told the crowd they were "turncoats.''

"I need your help returning these people to the private sector,'' Krinkie said.

Dozens of participants carried "Wanted'' signs featuring photographs of the six legislators, as well as posters with sentiments such as "I am not an ATM.''

Jean Hopfensperger • 651-298-1553