We’re now officially in an election year here in Minnesota, which means that it’s a terrible time to deal with a budget deficit if you have the letters D-F-L behind your name.

One of the things I’ll specifically be paying attention to is how much the health care debate negatively affects DFL candidates and incumbents. I’ll be watching to see whether people have finally figured out that a moderate Democrat is someone who votes like Al Franken but sounds like Joe Lieberman or if they think that moderates still exist.

I’m betting that Ben Nelson and Amy Klobuchar finished that debate when they voted for the Senate’s wildly unpopular health care bill. So-called moderates like Ben and Bill Nelson, Evan Bayh and Amy Klobuchar voted just like socialist Bernie Sanders.

The next logical question is how that’ll play in Minnesota. There’s no better race to gauge that factor than by the Michele Bachmann vs. Tarryl Clark race. Tarryl has worked hard to craft a centrist image. Unfortunately, Tarryl’s votes don’t fit that image. That race will tell us whether the public has figured out that the Democrats’ votes doesn’t match their rhetoric.

Another race that might tell us alot in that respect is the Tim Walz race. I noted here that Rep. Walz “voted for bills that…will spend north of $3,500,000,000,000, that will increase taxes by $2,400,000,000,000 on small businesses, middle class families, fossil fuel-powered power plants and medical device makers.” If gas prices spike this summer, that will be additional firepower that the GOP candidate can use against Rep. Walz.

At the state legislative level, the DFL leadership has said that they’ll pass tax increases to balance the budget. This will make them easy to paint them into a corner on being the party that’s more worried about funding a 20th Century government than they’re worried about building a 21st Century economy:

The DFL knows it’s in trouble on that part because they’ve thrown together a Jobs Task Force. Here’s some of their recommendations:

State Direct Spending Programs
1. Provide more aid to local governments to prevent layoffs of local government employees and to limit cuts made to state government to avoid adding to unemployment.
2. Establish and fund a job subsidy program similar to the MEED program that the state operated in the 1980s.
3. Provide funding directly or through loan guarantees for programs like the Minnesota Initiative Fund.
4. Create or increase funding for workforce centers for the unemployed or underemployed and provide more state resources to help workers and laid-off workers make better informed decisions that affect their status under the unemployment compensation system.
5. Promote or publicize Minnesota businesses and their products.
6. Provide state funding for Project Energize.
7. Establish a state forgivable loan program for small manufacturers to purchase capital equipment, if the purchase will expand Minnesota employment.
8. Establish a state loan guarantee program to help expand the availability and affordability of credit for “vertical construction.”
9. Continue to invest in education so the state has a skilled workforce when the recession is over and demand to hire employees rebounds.
10. Provide state support for federal SBA loan programs (e.g., help with paying fees or fund higher maximums).
11. Increase state support to Small Business Development Centers.
12. Expand state deposits of its cash to include community banks, not just the highest bidders, which tend to be exclusively money center banks.
13. Increase the size of the state bonding bill and focus as much money as possible on planned retrofitting, rehabilitation, and remodeling projects that can be undertaken very quickly.
14. Robustly fund the transportation portion of the capital bonding requests to continue construction as federal stimulus money for these types of projects begins to wind down.
15. Increase funding for the Growth Acceleration Program (GAP) that provides small business grants.
16. Expand use of recycling programs in state operations, including bonding bill projects, such as Wisconsin has adopted.
17. Expand funding for affordable housing, such as more nonprofit housing bonds and general obligation bonding for public housing.
18. Provide expanded funding for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure grant program and reject proposals to merge it with other programs or to make it a statewide program.
19. Provide programs targeted to small Asian businesses to help them cope with the recession through technical assistance and loans.
20. Expand funding for early childhood education.
21. Reform K-12 education system through meaningful testing (GRAD standard), alternative teacher certification, and more results-driven charter schools.
22. Provide R&D funding, grants, loans, and technical assistance for green businesses and green chemistry practices.

Of these suggestions, I’d count as worthy nos. 5 and 9. Most of the rest of the DFL’s task force is a sop to their political allies, which is to be expected. Most of their suggestions would only get in the way of job creation and sustainable economic growth, meaning it’s counterproductive or worthless.

The fastest way to see the economy grow is by getting out of small businesses’ way. That means reforming the tax code and Minnesota’s regulatory regime. That means getting rid of the glut of health insurance mandates, too. It means finding new ways to providing essential services. Finally, get spending under control. Businesses know that irresponsible spending either leads to higher taxes or uncertainty in the economy.

Based on Obama’s stimulus bill, we’ve seen that spending irresponsibly is the fastest path to high deficits and higher interest rates, both of which hurt, not help, the economy.

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6 Responses to “Election 2010: The Minnesota View”

  • J. Ewing says:

    I note that EVERY single item, including 5 and 9, involve the State “funding” something or other with money that they do not have. Theoretically #21, of all of them, could be done without spending any state money, or could actually save money, but I’m certain it wouldn’t be done that way, and I rather doubt it can be done at all. I mean, we’ve doubled spending on education in the last 20 years, and achievement has gone DOWN. Don’t you think if “we” knew how to improve education “we” would have done it by now?

    It’s typical DFL thinking. If we spend the dollars they will come. If they don’t, we’ll just raise taxes on the rich, and the rich will come. It is such a fabulous fantasy life they enjoy, isn’t it?

  • George Hayduke says:

    Is there anything you neanderthals support government doing?

  • Gary Gross says:

    There’s lots of things wise conservatives support LOCAL GOVERNMENTS doing. The closer to home the decisions are made, the more accountability that’s part of the decisions.

    It’s called federalism & it’s the wisest system of government found. Isn’t it time that neanderthals like yourself figured that out?

  • J. Ewing says:

    Us neanderthals are those who believe that having government take from everybody to give to somebody else is theft, and not very smart economics. Government should not be taking money out of the economy to make the economy grow. It doesn’t work; it can’t work. It especially doesn’t work when what the government spends the money on is something that private investment and private charity would NEVER, left with the means to do so, do. Except for those things that private investment and private charity, left with the means, WOULD do, like “advertise its products.” There is a role for government. It’s not to be the only actor on the stage.

  • eric z. says:

    “The fastest way to see the economy grow is by getting out of small businesses’ way. That means reforming the tax code and Minnesota’s regulatory regime. That means getting rid of the glut of health insurance mandates, too. It means finding new ways to providing essential services. Finally, get spending under control. Businesses know that irresponsible spending either leads to higher taxes or uncertainty in the economy.”

    I am glad to see you are not talking in terms of simple-minded generalities, Gary, but instead lay out great detail of what reforms of the Tax Code you want to see, all detail of the new ways you would have essential services provided, etc.

    Keep up the fine level of detail, please. It lets us know specifics of what you think, beyond anyone accusing you of just blowing hot air.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Eric, All I’ll tell you is to think BTO. Think “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

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