Jay Reding.com

Cause, Meet Effect

The State of Minnesota has announced a $935 million dollar budget deficit, which will balloon up to nearly $2 billion over the next few years. More worrisome, there is a prediction that individual income tax receipts will decline, reducing the main source of the state’s income.

Of course, the typical reaction from the left has been to raise taxes and spend billions more. Apparently the simple logic of cause and effect stymies those in St. Paul who see government as the solution to all our problems. Undoubtedly the reaction to this dire budgetary news will be more calls to do what Democrats do best—raise taxes.

Of course, the Democrats claim that they simply had to raise gas taxes due to the outpouring of support for such a measure—despite the fact that poll data says quite the opposite. A majority of Minnesotans rejected the idea of a gas tax, a majority supports spending cuts, and a majority wants to see more fiscal discipline out of St. Paul.

There is one form of cause and effect politicians understand—do something wildly unpopular, and lose elections. Let us hope that the good people of Minnesota have the common sense to give out Legislature such a lesson this fall.

3 responses to “Cause, Meet Effect”

  1. Mark says:

    “The State of Minnesota has announced a $935 million dollar budget deficit, which will balloon up to nearly $2 billion over the next few years.”

    Minnesota has a particularly volatile revenue collection methodology that produces either feast or famine. I don’t fully understand the nuts and bolts of it, but it needs reform. With that said, $935 million is small potatoes. In 2003, Pawlenty moved to St. Paul facing a $4.5 billion deficit and two subsequent years of seven-figure deficits after that. Expect the Pawlenty formula of doubling every license fee on the state books and defaulting, with the help of nanny-state DFLers, to yet another increase in the “health impact fee” on tobacco, making the state even more dependent on declining tobacco sales to keep the lights running.

    “A majority of Minnesotans rejected the idea of a gas tax, a majority supports spending cuts, and a majority wants to see more fiscal discipline out of St. Paul.”

    A majority also wants to be in possession of the winning Powerball ticket heading into this weekend’s drawing. Most Minnesotans will pay less than $5 a month in new gas taxes….and none of them would even be able to idenitify the imposition of the new tax simply based on when they fill up their tanks. It’s not out of the question that such a “tax revolt” will ensue, but considering the real tax growth incurred at the property tax level due to Pawlenty’s three-card monte style of infrastructural funding, less than $50 a year more in gas taxes seems pretty inconsequential.

    “There is one form of cause and effect politicians understand—do something wildly unpopular, and lose elections.”

    I’m afraid the party that wants to remain indefinitely in Iraq, maintain the status quo on health care policy, and gleefully applauds every effort to outsource American jobs to the Third World is in very serious danger of experiencing the formula you describe this November.

  2. Seth0d says:

    Agreed with Mark. It’s all in the framing of the question.

    Voters want more money on transportation, more money to health care, more money to public education and more money to law enforcement. Problem is, they also want to pay less money in taxes.

    All of that is fine, but that’s not how it works.

    If you say, “do you want to raise taxes” to do almost anything, the gut reaction is ‘no.’ A question along the lines of “Do you support raising taxes to put more troops in Iraq?” would get a lower response than this poll.

    A real poll asks what people are willing to pay for a certain outcome. So, as Mark says, “Would you be willing to pay $5 more a month to help improve Minnesota’s infrastructure” will get you different results. I could commission and say, “Would you support paying $5 a month to pay for infrastructure improvements that may prevent things like the collapse on I-35,” and the result would be overwhelmingly ‘yes.’

    You can make up a mandate from the people all you want, but it doesn’t mean it exists.

  3. Jay Reding says:

    A real poll asks what people are willing to pay for a certain outcome. So, as Mark says, “Would you be willing to pay $5 more a month to help improve Minnesota’s infrastructure” will get you different results. I could commission and say, “Would you support paying $5 a month to pay for infrastructure improvements that may prevent things like the collapse on I-35,” and the result would be overwhelmingly ‘yes.’

    Then you’d have a factually inaccurate poll. The argument that the gas tax increase is going solely to repair bridges is a lie. $1.1 billion is being spend on metro-area mass transit, and millions more are going to other projects.

    The Minnesota taxpayer isn’t going to be swindled so easily. The argument that state government simply must raise taxes to pay for infrastructure doesn’t fly: they could prioritize road repairs over expanding mass transit. They could stop giving millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidize to finance a new stadium for the Twins. Normal people have to tighten their belts to pay for essentials: government should be held to the same standard. Road repairs should come first, but instead the state government has decided to act irresponsibly and take more money from taxpayers rather than acting responsibly and budgeting according to real priorities.