The Saint Paul SD66 Town Hall was held today (March 19, 2011). John Lesch, looking much like a Caprican Tauren character in his black hat, if you are familiar with the show you will immediately see the resemblance, and Alice Hausman lead the discussion. Betty McCollum was to come from another town hall meeting in South Saint Paul, but arrived just after the proceedings ended.
Initially promising a non-partisan discussion for the Town Hall Q&A (in introductory comments before I had my camera on), it quickly became sharply partisan as Alice Hausman, Video , said "I think you wanted us to go there and not bicker, not have partisan rancor". She basically laid blame on the opposition for "a diversion of attention to couple of other issues. One is something we've seen a little bit in Wisconsin, but we also see at the Minnesota Legislature and that is focusing on the middle-class worker and sort of blaming everything that's wrong with our society on that middle class worker, whether they're teachers, nurses or union members and that's a debate that is happening in Wisconsin and its happening in Minnesota and across the country". It went downhill from there. It was a nice comedic sketch (note the laughter from the audience), but it left me wondering how much of her interpretation of others motivation was simply an invention to help her spiel, and to sooth the ache of being in the minority after 40 plus years of being pretty much completely in charge [ MPR ].
In John Lesch's introductory remarks, Video, he said people ask him "why are we in this position again, why does it seem like we are constantly on this cycle of not just boom and bust but permanently bust, I tend to be more of a big picture guy"..."Why is it that we can never have the opportunity to effect real change even it only costs a modicum of money"... He basically blames Jesse Ventura for "killing the goose that laid the golden egg" by changing the tax rates and "short sheeted our bed to the tune of about a billion dollars a year in tax revenue". I am reminded as I listen to the recording again, who does he think has been at the helm in the last 40 years that the Minnesota State Congress was under basically his parties control? We didn't suddenly arrive here in the last couple of months since the last election. I did not really see a "big picture" emerge, but John later did state his view of the way out of this in Q9 Video: "I think a progressive tax system is the way we have historically done things in Minnesota ... right now its regressive. If you're poor you pay more of a percentage of your income ... than if your wealthy." I am not sure where this myth still comes from. We have an exceptionally progressive system for income tax, especially for federal, and it has been getting more so every year according to the data. In fact about 47% of US households pay no federal income tax, here and here . The only way to make it tend toward regressive is to make an amalgam of all forms of Minnesota taxation, including sales and property tax, as a percentage to income. This is a situation our founding fathers worried about a lot in the Federalist Papers, as a way our republic could fail. They described it as a form of tyranny, and tried to put in checks and balances to prevent it. Checks and balances we have continued to erode under the steady drumbeat of progressivism.
The questions or statements that were made from the audience are summarized here, see the Youtube channel for the complete videos, as they are uploaded:
AXMan Surplus owner had 2 questions: Q1 Why can't we have a regional transit system and support businesses at the same time? Q2 Cosetta's restaurant has a $10 million dollar renovation project, but the State funding, central corridor light rail project, is only providing $1.5 million loan fund for over 1000 businesses?
State employee statement that "republicans are really trying to dismantle everything". Rambling dissertation from there.
University Ave businesses representative - light rail issues. Met Council has basically ignored the impact on businesses. Insulting all of the businesses by publishing a report that said there would be no impact.
Question of basic services for people with disabilities. Working with 911 and police services requires verbal communication.
LWV (League of Women Voters) member question on Voter ID. They believe it would be costly to check a drivers license, and it would inhibit people from voting.
Education - Congressman you brought up Jesse Ventura. When he first came in he gave a great deal of money to education, the next year they came back for even more. His question to them was "what did you do with it". He never got an answer. There were studies done in California they looked at schools that had the least amount of money versus the schools that had the most amount of money, they found that basically throwing money at school did not improve the performance of the students. Do you have any answers to those questions? John Lesch answers, its the cost of advancing education technology. John's answer seems more like a shibboleth for the liberal cause than a case of actual reality. A 1995 study (the prices quoted for equipment and software, is still at or above the price for current 2011 products, have you spent more than $1500 for a computer recently? Ok a higher end Mac maybe) at the Rand Corporation placed that total cost in a range of $142 to $490, or 3.2-8% depending on the school (that is a 1995 specific figure). A far sight less than the growth in costs from 2000, which was certainly not technology free, to 2011.
Audience questioner responds to John Lesch's statement that students are to be workers in the global economy. Students are not meant to be made into workers for the global economy, they are to be free individuals. Double bookkeeping shown in state report comprehensive annual financial report CAFR
University Ave businesses explain the immense problems light rail project is causing and damaging their business, due to bad planning.
You have spent a lot of time telling us what the other side of the aisle was attempting to do and your objections. What are you going to do to attempt to balance our budget? John's response "right now it's set to be balanced on the backs of the property taxpayers", "I think a progressive tax system is the way we have historically done things in Minnesota ... right now its regressive. If you're poor you pay more of a percentage of your income ... than if your wealthy."
Setting up Obamacare state exchange systems
LGA (Local Government Aid) cuts, question about property taxes going up exponentially. Alice's response about University Ave "the regrettable thing about transportation systems... we know systems of transportation are essential... there are always some who bear the greater burden... one small group is in a sense being asked to bear the greater burden.. but we have not given up on trying to listen to the businesses on University Ave"