Why the change of heart, Krinkie asks?

Rep. Linda Runbeck, for one, has broken her pledge

Phil Krinkie
Guest Columnist

Last summer with each passing day of the government shutdown, lawmakers faced increasing pressure to fill the state’s multi-billion dollar budget gap with additional tax revenues. But the majority stood firm and pledged not to increase government spending more than the state was slated to take in during the next biennium.

Now, just seven months later, state lawmakers find themselves with a projected billion dollar budget surplus. You would think that given the circumstances our lawmakers would easily hold fast to their commitment that government should live within it’s means. But without a clear motive two of our local legislators have displayed a change of heart.

Recently Rep. Linda Runbeck and Rep. Carol McFarlane co-authored legislation that would legalize a new gambling activity and create a new tax on that activity.

Rep. Runbeck and Rep. McFarlane co-authored H.F. 2068 that would allow slot machines at Running Aces in Columbus and a south metro location at Canterbury Park. It has been estimated that the new tax revenue from the slot machines could bring in over $100 million annually to state government.

Just a few months ago both of these Republican lawmakers were part of the group chanting the mantra “Government should live within it’s means.” They took the position that state government had to manage its budget with the revenue it received under the current tax structure.

Even today, on her website Rep. Runbeck states: “One of the principles I support is that government must live within the resources available. I am ready to be your advocate and your voice for smaller government, lower taxes, individual responsibility, free markets and property rights.”

Now in 2012 both Rep. Runbeck and Rep. McFarlane appear to have a change of heart and believe that state government needs more money. They have proposed legalizing slot machines and taxing the revenue up to 40 percent in order to feed the state’s voracious spending habit.

Why the sudden shift in philosophy? Why are Rep. Runbeck and Rep. McFarlane supporting an increase in revenue for the government and backing away from their position that our state “government should live within its means?”

Why didn’t they bring forward this legislation last year during the budget debate? If their goal is to increase revenue for government; why not allow slot machines in bars across the entire state?

One of the designated uses for the revenue in their bill that our legislators co-sponsored is to reduce the K-12 school payment delay. During last year’s budget impasse Gov. Dayton proposed increasing the amount delayed in school aid payments from 30 percent to 40 percent. This means schools still receive state aid payments every month, but payments will be larger during the second half of the year. While their intention is well meaning with a near billion dollar surplus, why do they feel compelled to raise taxes?

If all the annual revenue from the new slot machines were to go to erase the delay in K-12 school aid payments it would take over 20 years. If the goal is to erase the school aid payment delay why would you propose an option that takes 20 years?

Furthermore; if we are going to use gambling revenue to fund schools across the state then wouldn’t it make sense to place slot machines across the state which would raise even more tax revenue?

Taxing gamblers to speed up aid payments to our schools won’t undo the borrowing and accounting shifts legislators used to balance the budget last session. I believe both Rep. Runbeck and Rep. McFarlane understand our state government has a spending problem not a revenue problem. Hopefully both will re-think their position on gambling for schools and renew their commitment to create a government that lives within it’s means.

— Krinkie, a former eight-term Republican state representative, is president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. You can contact him at: [email protected]

  • Jeff Hilger

    Why the sudden shift in philosophy you ask? Perhaps these legislators are responding to the 80+ percent of Minnesotans who are in favor of a Racino in Minnesota that would provide up to 20,000 jobs, breathe life into hundreds of dying farms and provide revenue to our state through time. Perhaps these fine Representatives are setting aside rigid party platforms and doing what they were elected to do — voice the majority opinions of their constituents.

    In a prior article entitled “Taxpayers League Targets Friends” posted on February 3rd of this year, Mr. Krinkie states the the Taxpayers League of Minnesota accepts money from Native American Gaming, but that, essentially this has no bearing on their position on the Racino issue. Really? I responded to that article, and I will ask again, “Why would a sovereign nation who pays NO TAXES in the State of MN, give money to the Minnesota Taxpayers League?” Could it be that this money subsidizes an organization who supports an on-going monopoly on gaming that Minnesotans have clearly voiced their wish to end?

    As citizens know, budget deficits and surpluses will come and go, and regardless of party lines we all agree there must be a move toward a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility. However, stubborn personal agendas must be put aside when the majority speaks. The Representatives mentioned in this article should be applauded for stepping up and hearing the people who elected them. It seems they are looking at a bigger picture for the Ag industry economy in MN, which will more than double, growing from 1 billion dollars to approximately 2.5 BILLION dollars annually, and again, provide up to 20,000 jobs across the state.

    I applaud the Taxpayers League of Minnesota for its effort to monitor taxation.
    However, the Racino is not a bandaid for the budget, nor is it a mandated tax. It is voluntary, and represents a hard fought desire of the majority of Minnesotans for a gaming venue that provides a long term solution of revenue for our state.

    Shame on Mr. Krinkie for attacking Representatives who are doing their job and listening to a majority opinion.

  • Steve Hansmann

    The taxpayers league is a collection of partisan hacks entirely under the thrall of the chamber of commerce and an elite minority that in no way wants their taxes raised one penny. As for a budget “surplus”, perhaps Krinkie and the present incompetent legislative majority could apply that to the two and one-half billion dollars they shorted the schools and teachers of. Just a thought.