The Dayton Shutdown continues, and today's news brings word that a "commission" assembled by former Veep Walter Mondale and former Guv Arne Carlson is now going to sit down and try to hammer this out.
Let's set aside for a moment the fact that we have elected representatives to do this job, and there's no real reason why we should farm the state budget work out to a group of unelected, unaccountable people.
Before this group has even met, here's what I can guarantee you: Part of their solution will be an increase in taxes.
That's because Arne Carlson is involved, and he never saw a tax rate or a government program that he didn't think should be increased.
As some of you know, I was Gov. Carlson's Press Secretary in the first year of his administration, and in early 1991, Minnesota was facing a budget "shortfall" as it is now, although much smaller. I vividly remember sitting in the governor's office in the Capitol in the second or third week after taking office, with most of his high-level staffers around to discuss the budget. Finance Commissioner John Gunyou, Chief of Staff Lyall Schwarzkopf, Patsy Randall, Lt. Governor Joanell Dyrstad and about five or six others of us were in the room. The discussion immediately turned to which was the best way to raise taxes to get out of the mess.
Income tax surcharges, sales tax increases, cigarette taxes, liquor taxes...they were all part of a 30-minute discussion about what the political fallout would be, which ones DFLers would go along with, etc., etc.
Finally, after listening to all of this, I spoke up and said, "How about we cut spending instead of raising taxes?"
They looked at me like I had suggested flapping our arms and flying to Mars. The notion of cutting spending instead of raising taxes hadn't event occurred to this group, and it was right about then I realized I probably wasn't a good fit for this administration. I'm a pretty conservative guy, but I'm not exactly a flaming right-winger, so if I'm far and away the most conservative guy in the room of alleged Republicans you know something's wrong.
In the end, taxes were raised, programs were expanded and the entire Carlson administration continued the explosion in the growth of government that has contributed to the current predicament.
So if Arne has his fingerprints on this "commission," there's no doubt in my mind that higher taxes will be part of their proposal. It didn't fly when Governor Goofy proposed it, and it won't fly when this group does it either.