What, exactly, do the tax troubles of Tom Daschle and Timothy Geithner have in common with the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Revenue?
On the surface, not much. But members of the Minnesota House have overwhelmingly passed an amendment that would block the governor from appointing a Revenue chief who has failed to file an individual tax return or has unpaid taxes from past years.
It's never been a problem in the past, and state regulations already allow for investigating such tax problems. But that's not the point, said the measure's sponsor, Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove.
"If you're handling the taxpayers' money, it's probably a good idea to pay your taxes," Zellers said. "In these cases, the federal government broke a lot of trust with the people. We want to reassure the taxpayers of the state."
During debate on the amendment, which Zellers attached to a larger federal-state tax conformity bill, House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, dubbed it the "Geithner-Daschle" amendment. That was in honor of, respectively, the Treasury secretary (who survived his embarrassment over unpaid taxes) and the erstwhile Health and Human Services nominee (who did not).
Despite appearances, Zellers said the measure isn't simply a device to embarrass Democrats for those missteps. "People are saying, why are these guys treated differently from me," he said. "I pay my taxes, but he doesn't and gets a cushy government job."
Some DFLers initially opposed the measure, fearing the governor's office might have problems with it. After confirming that the governor's office would accept the law change, members approved it on a 123-5 vote Thursday. Zellers said he is trying to line up a Senate sponsor for the amendment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.