Anti-Tax Talk Is Cheap. Education Isn't
In a piece printed on Wednesday's op-ed page of the Star Tribune, Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan) fulminated with a forked tongue. The premise of Buesgens' diatribe was that it was indeed better to shut down state government than cave in to the budgetary priorities of "former governors and other bureaucrats who never pushed themselves away from the dinner table of taxes." (The "former governors" citation was a snipe at Arne Carlson, who has become particularly outspoken about the hijacking of the state Republican Party by the no-new-taxes crew.) To that end, he repeats a couple of the Pawlenty Administration's more hackneyed falsehoods, claiming, for example, that the proposed state budget will already increase by eight percent, a calculation that embraces inflation on incoming dollars but pretends that same inflation won't affect the cost of government services.
Buesgens trots out the old standby: "Minnesota does not have a revenue problem-Minnesota has a spending problem," then flips his foot into his mouth by announcing that he's personally authored a racino bill "which would bring in $200 million to the state's coffers"? Why does the state need to raise that revenue? Why not just cut $200 million and cure the "spending problem"? A letter published in today's Strib also notes this contradiction.
Buesgens goes on to assert that Republicans have "offered an education package larger than the Democrats'." One would assume that he includes himself among those Republicans. But the education bill passed by Buesgens and the rest of the Republican majority in the Minnesota House was considerably smaller--even after it explicitly approves the levying of some property tax increases�than the education bill passed by the Minnesota Senate, where the Democrats are in the majority.
Perhaps Buesgens is referring to the revised education proposal put forth by Governor Pawlenty, which contains almost the exact same amount of money as the DFL's revised education proposal (albeit not as much for special education and early childhood education programs). But Pawlenty's recent plan to boost education funding requires passage of his proposed cigarette "fee." The Taxpayers League of Minnesota has subsequently stated the obvious, that this "fee" is actually a tax by another name, and has run media spots against it. And Buesgens is one of the state legislators shown on the Taxpayers League website as maintaining his no-new-taxes pledge.
So, Rep. Buesgens, are you for the "fee" or against it? Are you still abiding by the pledge or not? You couldn't even convince your Republican colleagues who comprise a majority in the House of the merits of your racino bill, so you have to make up your mind: Are you one of those who can't pull themselves away from the table of taxes, or do you prefer to low-ball funding for education? Instead of dissembling bluster that encourages a government shutdown, your constituents deserve straight answers to these questions.