In echoes of John Kerry, Senator Bonoff voted for childcare unionization before she voted against it. The State Senate recently passed a bill authorizing two powerful unions, both of which contributed heavily to elect a DFL legislature, to organize home childcare workers and personal care attendants. This is a power grab that most home childcare workers don’t want and if the unions succeed it will increase the already sky-high cost of childcare. The funds to pay mandatory union dues will likely come out of taxpayer dollars earmarked to assist low-income Minnesotans with their childcare expenses, meaning the people hurt the most are the very low-income population the DFL claims to protect.
Senator Bonoff stated publically and repeatedly that she opposed the childcare unionization bill. She was unequivocal that the bill was bad for her district. “It isn’t consistent with what the people in my community want,” she said. Indeed, she originally voted “no” on passing the bill out of the Senate Finance Committee, resulting in a tie vote insufficient to pass the bill to the full Senate. Yet after some back room arm twisting she inexplicably changed her vote to “yes.” She claims this flip-flop was not because her mind changed and that she still opposed the bill. She did in fact vote against the bill when it came up before the full Senate.
Bonoff will no doubt focus on her final, meaningless “no” vote in the Senate—where passage was inevitable—and claim this vote demonstrates her independence. In fact it shows the opposite. Bonoff knew well that if the bill got to the full Senate floor it would pass. Her one and only opportunity to stop a bill that she knew was bad for her community was in the Finance Committee. If she had stuck with her guns the bill would have died. Because she flip-flopped and voted “yes” in committee the bill is now the law and the land. It’s impossible to know what the DFL party bosses said to Bonoff to get her to abandon her convictions. Perhaps they pointed out how much money the unions had given to the DFL in the last election, and how desperately the DFL needs union backing in 2014. For whatever reason, Bonoff caved.
This story is important not primarily because of the end-result, although that’s certainly bad enough. This story is important because it demonstrates something critical about Senator Terri Bonoff. She wants to be perceived as a moderate, but she is not a moderate. When push comes to shove she will put her party loyalties ahead of her supposedly moderate beliefs and toe the party line. She will buck the party only as a meaningless symbolic gesture; such as a “no” vote on a bill she knows will pass without her vote. This is far worse than a politician that changes her convictions. This is a politician with no convictions.
The worst thing about the DFL’s latest tax-increase binge isn’t the mere fact it will give Minnesota one of the highest tax rates in the country. It isn’t the fact that the only argument in the DFL is whether to raise taxes to 9.4% (Senate version) or 12.49% (House version, including the “temporary” surcharge). It isn’t even the fact that the tax hikes come at the same time businesses are being burdened with expensive new mandates like Obamacare and a more-than 50% increase in the minimum wage.
The worst thing is the hypocrisy of making it harder for ordinary businessmen and women—the kind without expensive lobbyists—to do business in Minnesota while simultaneously making sweetheart deals with the selected few. You see, if it weren’t for the special deals, like the roughly $15.4 million in tax breaks and other incentives that the AP reports was recently offered to a tech company to set up shop in Minnesota, it might be possible to believe that the DFL politicians actually believe their own rhetoric. It might be possible that they actually believe companies will ignore things like tax rates and regulatory climate because they’ll be so eager to employ the highly educated population that will, according to such politicians, flock to Minnesota to enjoy the fruits of our expensive government. But the sweetheart deals . . . that tells you everything you need to know.
The sweetheart deals tell you even the DFL politicians don’t believe the words coming out of their mouths. If they did, there would be no need to pick special companies to be exempted from the prevailing tax climate. The fact they have to be exempted, and the fact the DFL knows they have to be exempted and/or given other incentives, tells you that on some level the DFL does understand that businesses respond to economic incentives. But if they understand that, why not simply give every business in Minnesota lower taxes and a friendly welcome? If we benefit from bringing in a handful of companies by offering special breaks wouldn’t we benefit even more by bringing in countless companies by offering everyone the same breaks, including all the small businesses subject to pass through taxation at the individual income tax rates?
A suspicious person might surmise that DFL politicians have something other than broad based economic prosperity on their minds. A suspicious person might surmise that the DFL wants to pick winners and losers as a means of enhancing their own power and bringing the business community into line. After all, a business community dependent on politicians for special handouts is likely to be far more compliant than a free and independent business community. After all, the less favorable the general business client the more valuable each special exception becomes.
One can hardly blame businesspeople for asking for incentives to come to Minnesota's otherwise inhospitable business climate. But one can and should blame the politicians that put them in that position. Our businesses should not be supplicants at a royal court asking for favors. They should be free to do what they do best, exercise their genius to create value and jobs in the free market. That’s America. That’s Minnesota. Or least it ought to be.
The newly elected SD44 executive board recently met for the first time. The board is about equal part new faces and returning members, and everyone had excellent and important ideas to share. You’ll be hearing more about the new board’s plans in the future, but I think it’s important to start out with the one theme that pervaded our meeting. As a party, as a senate district, as individuals, we are not defeated.
If you're anything like me you were dispirited by the results of the November elections. There's no getting around the fact that 2012 was not, in retrospect, a good year for Republicans. Many in this Senate District gave their all for our candidates and our ideals. A lot of great candidates lost their races. Did all our efforts in the last election matter for anything?
I'm here to tell you that they did. We stood our ground. We got out there and put our ideas in front of the people. We reminded the people that we’re the party that turned deficit into surplus, that we’re the party of growth and fiscal responsibility, and we helped return Sarah Anderson—one of the best legislators we have—back to Saint Paul.
Even amidst the disappointment of electoral defeat, what is most important is that we stick to what we believe in and make sure the people know it. This is important because over the next couple years the people of Minnesota will see firsthand the results of policies rooted in principles very different from our own. They're going to get to see what happens when we elect leaders who believe that they, in their wisdom, can spend the peoples’ money better than the people themselves. They’re going to see what happens when we elect leaders who believe every problem is an excuse for another rule, a bigger government, and another encroachment on personal liberty.
Strange as it seems the next couple of years are going to give conservatives and libertarians a priceless gift. That gift is showing the people what DFL politicians really believe. In this state many DFLers campaigned as pragmatic pro-business moderates. If instead they herald in a return to deficit spending, job-killing rules, higher taxes, and special-interest give-aways, then we all have a very important job to do. Our job is to pay attention, and to make sure that our friends and neighbors learn exactly what's happening.
In a real democracy, electoral defeat is from time to time inevitable. But that swings both ways. The pendulum will swing back as the DFL overreaches, and we have to be prepared both to expose that overreach and to offer our alternatives. We can't spend the next 19 months sulking and lamenting about how things have changed for the worse. We have to be out there, showing the people that there is an alternative. We have to be true to our principles and translate those principles into ideas.
I can't promise you what's going to happens in November of 2014, but I can promise you one thing. We're going to have a much better chance if we spend the next 19 months on our feet, chin high, and voice raised to argue for what we believe in than we will if we sit down and shut up. I am excited about the next year, the new board, and the challenge of getting our message out there. 2013 will be the year that the SD44 board, along with the rest of our party, gets back into the arena and proves that there is a whole lot of fight in us yet.