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Tuesday Talk: What do you want legislators to know?

August 28, 2012 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

The Minnesota State Fair presents regular Minnesotans with an excellent opportunity to walk right up and tell their current or aspiring lawmakers what’s on their mind. This is especially important in a year when the entire state House and Senate are up for election.

You might ask: How are they going to pay back schools?

Or let them know how “no new taxes” isn’t working out for middle-class families. If you can’t make it to the Great Minnesota Get Together, here’s your forum.    

What would you ask, or want current and soon-to-be lawmakers to know about moving Minnesota forward?  


Senate Fair Schedule

House Fair Schedule

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  • Herbert A. Davis, Jr. says:

    August 28, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Without more progressivity in our tax structure we are just an easily divided and manipulated electorate of too many special interests.
    Profit and smaller government(business and religion) are simple to understand and organize and they have helped us in our efforts to divide ourselves and conquer us!

  • Joe says:

    August 28, 2012 at 8:53 am

    We have a recent Pew poll that says Americans believe that the rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

    Minnesota has its own polls showing people think the rich can afford to pay more in taxes. Why keep up the no new taxes charade.
    Let’s get Minnesota back on a fiscal fairness track.

  • Kimberly J. says:

    August 28, 2012 at 9:41 am

    I want our leaders to lead. To lead by example. To bring people together, not drive them apart. I want politicians to practice what they preach and truly take care of all people, not just some of the people who fit a scripted ideology. I want politicians who treat their opponents with respect. I want leaders who are unifiers.

  • ChristeenStone says:

    August 28, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Look back at the history of Minnesota when we were a progressive state, study the Minnesota Miracle.Think what we were doing then that is missing. I came alive to being involved in the late 80’s to the legislative process in Minnesota. When I began working to pass a Living Will Bill.
    WE passed it in 1989 and then I learned
    we have a big problem with uninsured population. In 1992 we passed Minnesota Care so low income people could afford
    good health care on a sliding fee scale.
    That worked great until Governor Pawlenty decided to use that fund and tobacco funds to balance his budget. Also we started borrowing from education and raising fees on college students and wondering why our education system was loosing ground. This election we have a chance to elect people who will not feel they are there to rule by constitutional amendments, but will work in a bipartisan way to pass laws that will
    bring fairness to our system. Why not??

  • Charles F. Zea says:

    August 28, 2012 at 10:05 am

    I feel that it is time to reform the procedure to get a constitutional amendment proposal on the ballot.  An amendment to the state constitution is some thing that is going to effect every resident of the state for a long time and possibly rest of their lives.  An amendment to the state constitution is much larger than a simple majority vote by the State House and State Senate.  It should require at least a 60% affirmative vote from those present at the time the vote is taken.

    It should required that state HD Rep and state Senators hold open meetings in their districts to answer questions and receive comments concerning amendment(s) that are on the ballot.  These meeting should be considered as an educational event and not as a “rally” to motivate or discourage those in attendance.

  • Greg Kapphahn says:

    August 28, 2012 at 10:18 am

    I agree with the previous posters.  We know what works in Minnesota.  What we need to do is go back to where we once were, restore what we once had, then move forward from there,...

    and away from government according to what our “conservative” friends believe simply MUST be true (but which never HAS been true),...

    because the snake oil that “conservatives” leaders have been selling us for the past thirty+ years has done nothing but magically extract money from our own pockets and deposit it into the foreign, tax-avoidance accounts of the already fabulously wealthy,...

    giving them the resources they need to try to buy this country out from under all the rest of us (through control of the information we use to make choices at election time).

  • tony says:

    August 28, 2012 at 11:59 am

    People need to understand. Our parents created the middleclass by building roads, sewer systems, schools, all the things we grew up with knowing that the amount of taxes they pay isnt enough to do this. So they asked the wealthy to pay a larger percentage of their income to help us all. They still could afford the better things that their wealth gave them but enough to allow the middleclass to have a better life. Now they are saying, we dont want to help anymore. The problem is that they have convinced the tea party members that having the wealthy help their lives is a bad thing. The fact that educating our children lowers crime and all the ills that poverty creates has been lost in this discussion. We need to change the discussion from how much we pay to what do we all get from the programs it pays for & is a better life for us all the goal of the American Dream.

  • KJC says:

    August 28, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    What would I want them to know?  Looking at what they seemed to think was important in the last session:  accounting tricks that hurt the schools, disenfranchising voters and limiting freedoms, etc ... that just isn’t what Minnesota is about.  That what they have done, and are doing, is poor governance.
    What else would I like them to know about their actions?  That their approach will backfire on them.  Oh?  So much of what is being done is to “beat up” on minority groups for political purposes.  You could make the case that their basic rallying cry is “if we just hammered all these unpopular groups, everything would be fine.”  (And some even take that bait…)
    How will that backfire, and for sure?  Looking at demographic trends, in about 30 years, the predominant ethnicity that provided the votes to pass all this divisive legislation will be a minority group themselves, for the first time. 
    Ask yourself this question… would you like a strong history of respect for minority rights, backed-up by laws, when you are a minority group?  I think most would say “yes.”  When would be the best, and most effective time to take a stand for that, before or after that change happens? 
    That’s what I like the Legislators (and the voters who support them) to know, and to then think of their own descendants and all Minnesota families.  Consider the aspects of the future they bring into legal existence now will ultimately be coming home to them and their descendants in about 30 years. So please think again, just what future would you like that to be? 
    As it says on our great national seal: E Plurbus Unum.  Out of Many, One… some seem to have forgotten the fundamental reality that we’re all in this together, and instead seek to play “divide and conquer.” This long-term picture is what I would like Legislators to know, and then to think and revise their actions accordingly.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    August 28, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I want our legislators to take a good look at Greece, a country that is being forced by the IMF to put into practice a “small government” like that our own right-wingers want to foist on Minnesota.

    Greece has cut public employment, salaries, retirement pensions, education, services for the poor, infrastructure—everything government is responsible for providing with the revenue it collects in taxes.  No, says the IMF, that is still not enough.  I guess they want to see people starving to death on the streets and alleys where they now live, unemployed and un-helped.

    Greece might yet be forced, as a condition of staying in the Eurozone and getting more bailout funds, to sell its islands to wealthy would-be island-owners, to sell the Parthenon and other precious sites of antiquity (perhaps to become the home of a Walmart store), to dispense with public education and all services for the poor, and to privatize water and electrical service. 

    Do we really want to take a chance on becoming Greece, or do we want our government to progressively tax its citizens in amounts sufficient to provide decent jobs with worker and environmental protections, a decent education for all, an infrastructure that meets the needs of citizens and businesses, and an arts community that enriches our lives?

    I want our legislators to give the likely end results of austerity at any level of government serious thought and then reject the false belief that taxation is theft and government a controlling rather than a serving body.

  • Bernie says:

    August 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    I believe our legislators have taken a look at Greece and see our future if government spending remains unchecked. Years of unrestrained spending, cheap lending and failure to implement financial reforms left Greece badly exposed when the global economic downturn struck. Greece’s credit rating has been downgraded to the lowest in the eurozone, meaning it will likely be viewed as a financial black hole by foreign investors. This leaves the country struggling to pay its bills as interest rates on existing debts rise. Sounds eerily familiar.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    August 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    A conservative Greek prime minister (I think the same one in power now) was convinced by one of our banking giants that Greece could borrow, borrow, borrow.  It did not work, as we know.

    Greek voters replaced him with a good socialist who inherited the debt and would have eliminated it over time with progressive taxation and prudent investment in the economy.  The financial gods, however, instantly got rid of him and replaced him with the conservative.

    The conservative has allowed the IMF to impose inhuman austerity measures on Greek citizens in return for a bailout it will never be able to pay back. And now the IMF and Angela Merkel want Greece to impose even greater hardhip on its citizens and to begin privatizing its national treasures to show it is “serious” about paying its debt.

    My personal advice to Greece would be to default on its loans at least until its economy was again healthy.  Unless they want to see things like its water supply and the Parthenon and maybe some islands sold off the foreign investors.

  • KJC says:

    August 30, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Greece isn’t the best comparison.  But? It is instructional of what happens when you lose necessary revenues in a frenzy of (self-justified) anti-government rhetoric and actions.  Below is the 2010 report of the magnitude of Greek tax cheating.  When this has become “normal” your society is in grave trouble… period. Everybody was “out for themselves” and not in it together… the awful price of that level of greed and selfishness is now being paid by even those who didn’t cheat.     

    ATHENS — In the wealthy, northern suburbs of this city, where summer temperatures often hit the high 90s, just 324 residents checked the box on their tax returns admitting that they owned pools. So tax investigators studied satellite photos of the area — a sprawling collection of expensive villas tucked behind tall gates — and came back with a decidedly different number: 16,974 pools.  That kind of wholesale lying about assets, and other eye-popping cases that are surfacing in the news media here, points to the staggering breadth of tax dodging that has long been a way of life here.
    Such evasion has played a significant role in Greece’s debt crisis, and as the country struggles to get its financial house in order, it is going after tax cheats as never before.  Various studies, including one by the Federation of Greek Industries last year, have estimated that the government may be losing as much as $30 billion a year to tax evasion — a figure that would have gone a long way to solving its debt problems.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    August 30, 2012 at 9:36 am

    KJC:  Thanks for your comment.  I had read or heard that non-payment of taxes by the rich in Italy had a lot to do with their current economic mess as well, but had not known it was the same in Greece.

    How about a Wealth Tax in both countries that would assess non-payers for—to pick a number—the taxes they should have paid for the last ten years?

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    August 30, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    More about Greece that I just learned today when I got around to reading an article by Mark Weisbrot that I printed out on August 2. See and click on Columns by Mark Weisbrot to find:

    “How the ECB [the European Central Bank] Came to Control the Fate of the World Economy,” published in The Guardian on 07/30/12 and then at the site. He notes that “...the ECB has always had, and continues to have, the power to end the immediate crisis in the eurozone, but has refused to do so.  Not for any of the economic reasons commonly believed—such as worries about sovereign debit or inflation.  Rather, they have refused to end the crisis for a nefarious political reason: in order to force the weaker economies of Europe to accept a regressive political agenda—including cuts in minimum wages and pensions, weakening of labor laws and collective bargaining, and shrinking the state.”

    (Sounds exactly like the agenda being pushed by ALEC and the Koch Brothers, Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republican members of Congress, the National Chamber, and all those who wish a world controlled by corporate power, doesn’t it?)

    Mr. Weisbrot references statements by George Papandreou, the socialist prime minister who was gotten rid of by Greece’s right wing, in a speech he gave in London on May 21, “We Need More Europe Rather Than Less.”

    A link to the speech is on the right-hand side of the home page of his website,