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Key Minnesota Republican makes case for no tax hike

WILLMAR — House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt says budget moves the Legislature took under the two previous years of Republican control resulted in an improving state economy that should not now be set off course by raising taxes.

“It really worked,” said Daudt, R-Crown, during a stop Tuesday morning in Willmar as part of a statewide tour during the Legislature’s holiday break to discuss the GOP’s take on the budget.

 “The economy is improving because we didn’t raise taxes,” he said, arguing that the same action should be taken again. “We think we have a great case to make.”

The state’s budget deficit has decreased and a good chunk of the money the state borrowed from schools has been paid back, said Daudt, who criticized Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposals to raise taxes to increase revenues.

A tax increase now will “harm the economy,” said Daudt, who called Dayton’s budget proposal an “all-taxes budget,” a direct reference to Dayton’s characterization of the GOP’s 2011 budget as an “all-cuts budget.”

While pleased that Dayton has withdrawn his business-to-business tax proposal, Daudt said he and other Republican lawmakers are “a bit skeptical” of a House DFL proposal to create a temporary fifth tax tier that would target the top 1 percent earners with a surcharge in order to generate revenue to finish paying back the school shift.

Daudt said temporary taxes oftentimes end up as permanent taxes and that kind of tax would make Minnesota less competitive and hamper businesses from adding jobs.

“Let the economy grow. Let people create job,” said Daudt.

He said funding education and transportation — two key issues in rural Minnesota — can be done in the current structure without raising taxes because the turnaround in the economy is bringing in more revenues than expected.

Daudt said funding for transit and commuter rail has come at the expense of roads and bridges and that with setting priorities, transportation issues can be addressed without raising the gas tax. Given the state’s “fragile economy,” he said it would be unwise to implement an increase in the gas tax that would hurt people who are the “fuel in our economy.”

Daudt said money can be saved by making state government “run smarter and better.” He suggested that improving a computer accounting system could find money that’s “slipping through the cracks.”

The state could also save money by not funding the $50 political campaign donation. That program, which Daudt called “welfare for politicians,” costs the state $24 million every biennium, he said.

Daudt said the budget is the primary focus of GOP legislators this year.

In the 2012 election, marriage and voter identification amendments were emphasized by Republicans. Both amendments were defeated, and Republicans lost majority control of both the House and Senate to the Democrats.

Daudt said the “hindsight” message from the election was that Minnesotans want legislators to “work together.”

Daudt was critical of what he said was the DFL’s unwillingness to compromise this session. He said the passage of the health care insurance exchange was an example of a “missed opportunity” by the DFL not to accept any GOP amendments, which he said were “reasonable” petitions that would have resulted in a better product.

Daudt said he was not sure he would have voted for the bill even if the Republican measures were added to the bill, but he said he was confident some Republicans would have. Instead, it passed without any GOP votes.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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