Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bridges and budget constraints

I was at a public presentation made by some Republican legislators last week -- I have some notes but don't think I'll post them -- the discussion was about veterans and our support for the Iraq War. Some chirpy woman, who had made several critical comments already that evening, declared that we had made no payment on the Iraq War, which only could make sense to me by her claiming that every dollar taxed by our Federal government has to be spent on all the other things in the budget. That is, her implicit assumption is that we can only spend a dollar on Iraq after all those farm subsidies, health care cost reimbursements and post offices named after everyone and his mother-in-law.

I find this logic either amusing or irritating, depending on my mood. At the time I was irritated, but after visiting with friends I let it go.

Irritation returned this morning as I read the second in the StarTribune's full frontal assault on your wallet in the name of safety.

For MnDOT to keep pace with all statewide transportation needs from 2008 to 2030 -- including construction, safety projects, maintenance, and upgrades -- it would cost taxpayers $38.1 billion, according to MnDOT's most recent estimates.

But over that same time period, with current funding policy, MnDOT estimates that it will only have $14.5 billion.

McFarlin said MnDOT's fiscal 2008 budget is short at least $85 million for scheduled construction projects.

At what point did anyone discuss redistributing money to transportation from other parts of the budget? "Which ones?" you ask. Well, Phil Krinkie has an idea: Maybe we don't need to spend money on transit, particularly when you buy an 80 mile project but get a 40 mile project instead. Nicole Russell wonders about $50 million to provide security at the GOP Convention. Nice that Bemidji State gets some sugar for engineer and nurse training but could that money be better spent?

Every additional dollar spent on bridge repair, construction, or inspection has three sources: You can tax more; you can borrow more; or you can spend less somewhere else. Dropping any of those three from the equation means you are optimizing subject to NO budget constraint. This is the height of folly; you cannot run your own home buying more of X, Y and Z without at least considering if you could do without so much of A, B, or C. Neither can you run a government.

(Crossposted from SCSU Scholars.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Freedom Minutes

Jason Lewis and Minnesota Majority have a new ad out that is a killer!

This is a video version of the state wide radio campaign that Minnesota Majority launched today! MM also has an online petition that you can sign if you are interested.

If you want to know more about some of the pitfalls of Universal health care, you can read my posts here, here, here, here, here and here. The bottom line is that while health care reform is needed, universal health care is not the answer. The market can and will work, if we the people allow it to happen and do the work necessary to allow it to happen.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Who Said This?

Who said this?

"We weren't designed in Article I of the Constitution to be the ATM machine...."

Rep. Walz - the taxpayers of America are not the ATM machine for the Federal or State government either. If you don't like being the President's ATM, imagine how the taxpayers feel...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

For the Common Good

My friend John has an article in the American Thinker that explains why history is so important for us to remember and learn from.

The past week saw the anniversary of one of the great tragedies of history overlooked by most of the US mainstream media. On November 24th 75 years ago, Stalin announced plans to collectivize all grain from his people, in an attempt to enforce "true socialism" on the people for their own good. This Holodomor (forced famine) sentenced millions of Ukrainians to their deaths.

The lesson was given to John by a family member who lived through those days.

Last month I was in the Ukraine visiting my family, and got to meet my babushka (Russian word for grandmother), Darina. Darina is in her 80's and has lived in her little house for her entire life. She was a little girl when Stalin forced the food production quotas on the Ukraine people.

What John's babushka lived through was the starvation of 3.5 million Ukranian people for the "common good". It was a phrase that was used by the Stalinists to justify the gradual enslaving of the Russian people. So the next time that a politician proposes taking from one group to give to another, think about babushka Darina and the starvation of the Ukranian people. Stop and reflect on what the people suffered at the hands of an all powerful "benevolent" government that said that they were operating "for the common good".

Cross-posted at Ladies Logic

Minnesota Republican Response to Budget Deficit Situation

Rep. Seifert held a brief media response to the budget forecast. His comments include:

We do not need tax increases.

Sacrifices need to take place. The question being asked is who is doing the sacrificing? Republicans believe sacrifices need to take place within government. Democrats believe sacrifice happens with businesses and families.

Republicans and Governor Tim Pawlenty brought fiscal discipline to the legislative process last session. Without the Governor's line item vetoes, bonding bill vetoes the budget deficit could have been more than $500 million. We need fiscal accountability. The Democrats should stay within the debt limit of $965 million for the bonding bill. The bonding bill should be focused on infrastructure like roads and bridge. It would be irresponsible to blow that limit and put that much more on the state credit card.

All levels of government must live within their means - state, county and local.

The House GOP will look toward cuts in government spending to resolve this budget deficit. We talk about fiscal restraint but we need cuts in wasteful spending. FY2010-2011 has a projected major deficit. We need to prepare and get spending under control.

We will again bring fiscal discipline to session. There should be no permanent spending with one-term money, the bonding bill should stay within the debt limit and we don't need to raise taxes.

Sen. Dave Senjem also responded:

This is a wake up call.

We live in a highly taxed state. Our business climate is suffering. We rank 42 in the nation for business climate. We need to create investments in our business climate. We should be in the top 10. Business expansion is not happening in Minnesota because there are no incentives to grow business.

Hang on to your wallets...

I just received word from Ian Marsh that, due to a slower-than expected economy the upcoming forecast calls for a 373 million dollar budget deficit in FY 2008. Though a drop in the bucket compared to the 4 billion dollar deficit inherited by Governor Pawlenty when he took office, look for the caterwalling and gnashing of teeth, along with a death scream by the DFL delegation of the Minnesota House and Senate to raise taxes.

Word to Pawlenty, the DFL and the MN GOP:

You want more revenue? Here's a novel idea.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

DFL Misreading the Voters

Tarryl Clark uses this press release to essentially place all the blame on Minnesota's weakening economy on Gov. Pawlenty's shoulders. The sad truth is that the DFL should accept responsibility for attempting to ruin Minneosta's economy by proposing crippling tax increases to pay for their unsustainable spending increases. Here's one paragraph that got a chuckle out of me:

“Minnesota’s economy continues to struggle, but the governor refuses to do his part to lend a hand,” said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud. “Each month, Minnesotans are seeing more and more job opportunities disappear. It is imperative that we do whatever we can to jumpstart our state’s economy.”

I emailed Tarryl a couple weeks ago with the suggestion that the DFL work with Gov. Pawlenty to cut taxes next session. I still haven't gotten a reply from her on that, nor do I expect one considering the subject matter. The DFL hates GOP-proposed tax cuts almost as much as Superman hates Kryptonite or vampires hate wooden stakes.

I'd just like to second Gov. Pawlenty's quote about maintaining Minnesota's prosperity:

“What my DFL friends don’t understand is you can’t government your way to
prosperity. You have to have a real economy,” he said. “So their answer is ‘We’d
have a better economy if the governor would spend more government money on
projects and raise taxes’?”

Here's proof that the DFL hasn't figured out that "you can’t government your way to prosperity":

“The governor has opposed the Legislature’s attempt to help create jobs,” said Sen. Clark. “He vetoed the bonding and tax bills, which would have brought thousands of new jobs to the state. He also opposed long-term investments in transportation and education that are critical to starting an economic revival. The transportation bill itself would have created 60,000 jobs.”

Here's a refresher on last session's Transportation Bill:

The proposed 10-cent-a-gallon gasoline-tax increase moving through the Minnesota Legislature could end up being higher than that, maybe more than twice as high.

Tucked away in a big transportation funding bill being fast-tracked to a Senate floor vote today are future increases in Minnesota’s gas tax that could push it from 20 cents a gallon to more than 40 cents over 10 years, higher than any state’s current bite at the pump.

“I’m not trying to fool anybody,” said Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, sponsor of the measure that would increase funding for roads and transit by $1.5 billion a year once it was fully implemented in the next decade. “There’s a lot of taxes in this bill.”

Here's a better recap of what's in the bill:
  • Higher registration renewal fees on future new car purchases, but no increases on currently owned vehicles.
  • A half-cent rise in the general sales tax in the seven-county Twin Cities area, imposed without a voter referendum, plus a $20 excise tax on new vehicle sales in the metro.
  • Local-option authority for half-cent sales-tax increases in the rest of Minnesota, subject to voter approval.
  • Authority for all 87 counties in the state to impose a $20-per-vehicle annual wheelage tax. Three suburban counties levied the current maximum of $5 per vehicle last year.
  • Increased fees for leased vehicle registrations, license plates, titles and drivers’ licenses, plus a $20 reinstatement fee for a license suspended for theft of gasoline.
Please tell me how this Transportation Bill will create a net a 60,000 job increase. How will it accomplish that when people will be leaving the state in droves? The message from the school levy elections wasn't nuanced. It was quite clear. It said that voters were tired of the annual tax increases & that they weren't going to take it anymore. They were tired of being treated like the DFL's ATM machines.

The DFL is free to ignore that message but they do so at their own peril. The DFL is attempting to ignore the message that Rockville citizens are sending, too. That'll lead to their demise:

Resident unrest is growing in Rockville, and some say it reflects how officials have managed the city since its 2002 consolidation with Rockville Township and Pleasant Lake. Some are worried about taxes or assessments they are paying or will have to pay. Others point to the new City Hall and fire station as excess spending and worry about the financial burden placed on residents. It’s prompted about 55 households on the south end of town to petition to withdraw from the city and join Maine Prairie Township.

Spurred by a controversial road assessment policy and general dissatisfaction, petitioners will go before the City Council for the first time tonight. At the meeting, officials also will consider approving assessments on two road projects: Stearns County Road 82 and Stearns County Road 8. It’s the first implementation of the policy that prompted residents to picket City Hall, hire a lawyer and meet with state

Tarryl seems oblivious to the fact that people won't tolerate another major tax increase. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the voters wanted a real property tax cut more than anything else & that they'd accept a cut in the marginal income tax rates to boot. Here's the final ironic Tarrylism:

Sen. Clark said the Legislature must focus on passing a new bonding bill, a
transportation finance package to fix the state’s roads and bridges, as well as a new tax bill aimed at spurring job growth and reducing property taxes soon. Many other strategies to promote growth in the emerging bioscience and renewable-energy industries should be examined, according to Sen. Clark.

Last session's tax bill would've created the highest marginal tax rates for small businesses in the nation. It would've driven up state commercial property taxes, too. There isn't any doubt that those tax increases would've driven small businesses out of the state, too. Despite all that, Tarryl wants us to believe that the DFL tax increases will create prosperity? I won't buy into that.

When Bill Clinton increased taxes in 1993, the economy was growing. Increasing taxes when the economy is weakening isn't smart policy. Increasing taxes at that time will hasten, deepen & lengthen the coming recession.

During W's first term, Democrats complained about the middle class squeeze. If they were to pass, the DFL's tax increases on small businesses would be the ultimate middle class squeeze because it'd drive up unemployment. If you want to see what massive tax increases does for an economy, just look at Michigan's. The only thing preventing Michigan from sliding into a deeper recession is the new $600 million business tax cut to draw new businesses to the state.

Listen to this:

The Governor’s new plan, the Michigan Business Tax, was developed on the
following principles:

  • Create a business tax with the broadest base and the lowest tax rate
  • Provide substantial personal property tax relief to industrial and
    commercial taxpayers
  • Eliminate the tax on payroll, benefits and health care
  • Preserve economic development tools to help attract new jobs and investment
  • Spread the tax fairly to all types of business organizations while
    maximizing the number of businesses receiving a tax cut
  • Ensure stable funding to protect citizens from higher taxes or huge cuts in
    education, health care or public safety while preserving the $600 million
    business tax cut that takes effect this year
  • Make the tax simple
That's the polar opposite of what Tarry's DFL wants to do. When I emailed Tarryl, I'm certain that she thought it was a prank email. It wasn't. I firmly believe that cutting Minnesota's taxes right now would give our economy a much-needed shot in the arm.

Simply put, it's time that Minnesotans told the DFL that we can't afford their destructive tax increases. It's time we told Tarryl that "you can't government your way to prosperity."

The only thing you can government your way to is to pay off your political allies.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Fighting Pork

My friend Gary wrote about the pork laden Transportation/HUD bill that contained $300m for the 35W Bridge and how certain representatives are taking others in his delegation to task for voting against the bill. I thought it would be enlightening to take a look at some of the numbers and let the readers decide.

$105.6 billion - that is the total amount of spending in that bill. Of that $105.6 billion, $300 million of it was for the bridge!

2300+ - that is the number of pork projects (some say 2314, others say 2380 we'll just go for the low) that were included in this bill including:

$700,000 for the Chicago Theater on the Lake
$500,000 for the Los Angeles County Fire Museum$400,000 for the Riverfront Boardwalk in Green Bay WI.
$700,000 for streetscaping in Joplin, MO.
$550,000 for the demolition of an abandoned church in Raytown, MO
$750,000 for the Detroit (MI) Engineering Theater

That is only a partial list of the projects that were for more money than was "earmarked" for the 35W bridge. That does not include the hundreds of $100,000 earmarks for various states theaters, cultural arts centers, streetscaping, opera houses, aquatic centers and music academies. This is also not a partisan issue. Republicans such as Mel Martinez ($350,000 for the Cuban American Historical Museum), James Inhofe ($140,000 for the Native American Cultural & Educational Authority Cultural Center and Museum) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson ($140,000 for the relocation of the Tom Green County Library) were bellied up to the trough along with the Democrats!

Missing from the bill was $300,000 that was needed for Native American Housing - isn't that what HUD money is SUPPOSED to go to?

This is exactly the type of spending that I was talking about when I said that our priorities were all mixed up! Here was a transportation and housing bill where most of the money went to everything BUT transportation and housing! I mean really - what does a $1million Woodstock Museum really have to do with housing or transportation Senator Clinton?

Imagine how many "structurally deficient bridges could have been fixed with the money that went to these other projects. Once you have done that, you might want to give Senator Coleman, Representative Ellison and Representative Oberstar a ring and ask them what these museums have to do with housing and transportation.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting Started

The bad news is that politicians have been abusing taxpayers for longer than I'd like to admit. Now is no different. The good news is that taxpayers now have more tools at their avail than ever before. We can & will shape elections.

At Taxpayers Revolt, We The People are about sending a firm, clear message to the political class. That message is simply summed up by telling them, whether the politicians are based in Washington, DC, in the 50 state capitols or in your hometown, that we're sick of being treated like the political class's ATM machines.

One of this blog's goals is to highlight instances where politicians have spent money foolishly and/or raised taxes so they could spend more money foolishly.

Another goal of this blog is to recruit a handful of bloggers from across the nation to highlight their politicians when they overspend or overtax us. Never before have taxpayers had the ability to notice trends of overreaching as we have right now. Right now, we have the ability to read about spending abuses in Pennsylvania, then compare those abuses with abuses we're seeing in Minnesota or Wisconsin or Florida. Right now, a blogger in New Mexico has the ability to write about an abuse in his/her state, only to find out that the same thing is happening in Ohio.

Put another way, this blog's goal is to be the vehicle by which we connect fiscal conservatives across the nation with the purpose of identifying local trends & turning them into national trends.
It is my strong belief that we are in the midst of a taxpayer revolt right now. Taxpayers in Washington State made it mandatory for the state legislature to get 67 percent of each body's legislators to vote yes to increase taxes. Taxpayers in liberal Oregon defeated a ballot initiative that would've raised taxes by 85 cents on each pack of cigarettes to pay for a children's health insurance program. Here in Minnesota, taxpayers defeated school levies, many with 60+ percent of the vote.
This blog's definition of fiscal conservatism means (a) using every penny wisely, (b) not raising taxes unless there aren't any other options and (c) keeping all levels as small as possible while providing for the things that our state or federal constitution mandates.

If you have a passion for this issue & would like to contribute to this blog, go to my profile to get my email address. Email me, then simply explain why I should pick you. If you're able to give a good explanation for including you on our team, I'll invite you in very short order.

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