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Forty new troopers needed to hold up bridges? (02/24/2008)
By John Edstrom

Hidden away in the record-breaking $6.6 billion tax increase just passed by the Minnesota legislature, the largest in our state's 150 year history, is an item which everyone should pay close attention to if he wants to understand what's going on here. Half again the size of last year's vetoed transportation bill, it calls for an 8 1/2 cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax, a .25 cent sales tax increase in the metro and adjoining counties, increased car registration fees, and...40 additional state troopers on the state's payroll. (Does this remind anyone of the desperately needed funding for homeland security which somehow wound up paying for extra cops on DWI patrol over holiday weekends?)

This unprecedented state revenue grab has been sold assiduously and absurdly by the metro newspapers as the only alternative to more bridge collapses. Far more relevant, however, is the fact that Minnesota's economy is down and unemployment up, and that gas prices are at an all time high. Even the most wild-eyed liberals in other states understand the folly of tax hikes during hard times. And those just passed in St. Paul will have the undeniable effect of worsening our slowdown while falling hardest on working people.

That is why it is important to keep a focus on the 40 extra troopers, who have nothing at all to do with the infrastructure needs and falling bridges being used to justify a massive tax increase in a state that is already among the most heavily taxed in the union (this bill would likely vault us back into the top ten). Minnesota government has plenty of money to fix our roads and bridges. However, with a big DFL majority, it is far more interested in building a bigger state government, with many more bureaus, resources, and employees, hence the 40 new troopers magically and irrelevantly appearing in this measure.)

What the legislature should do is prioritize its spending so that infrastructure gets its due, and new offices and programs come in second.

Never let it be forgotten, that while our bridges were supposedly being allowed to molder, the metro area treated itself to nearly $1 billion worth of light rail, a toy train to nowhere, of use only as a fetish for urban liberals. It is not for nothing that this huge spending bill talks as much about "transit" as it does bridges and highways. That is because its proceeds will be disproportionately stuck into more light rail for the Twin Cities while the outstate gets short shrift...and then another massive tax increase.

Give thanks that Governor Pawlenty has already vetoed this bill and prepare tar and feathers for any outstate Republican knave or fool enough to go along with an override attempt.



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