Today the MN House of Representatives votes on HF 4437 (constitutional amendment to dedicate “existing sales tax revenue from the sale of motor vehicle parts”). I will likely vote yes. Here is why.
Let me begin by expressing my disappointment with how this issue came to the legislature. This is an effort on the part of Republicans to divide the DFL, and divide labor, by dangling dedicated funding to a group of workers who need it (building trades) with yet another revenue stream that protects the wealthy. After all, who buys motor vehicle parts? Not people who drive new cars.
As a matter of policy, I have never supported dedicated funding streams, let alone constitutionally dedicated ones. In the words of one veteran lawmaker, “We could just dedicate the entire budget and everyone goes home.” It is the job of legislators to triage, prioritize, and appropriate funding - that’s what you pay us to do. Every organization wants dedicated funding. After all, who wouldn’t? You get guaranteed revenue (at the expense of everyone else in the competition) and every group that comes to the capitol for resources competes for a diminishing pool of resources – the Hunger Games version of lawmaking. But this is a false narrative. Minnesota has plenty of resources to support our schools, fix our roads, and heal our ailing neighbors, but Republicans have successfully perpetrated a message that there’s just not enough to go around. That’s not true – there is plenty to go around – but realizing that means expecting the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share.
All of the above words are reasons not to support the amendment, but the reality of this situation is that the amendment will pass the MN House today with, or without, my vote because Republicans have a large majority. It’s also true that the amendment will probably not pass the MN Senate – meaning that it will not be on the ballot in November. This place, the MN Capitol, operates on relationships. Relationships can either enhance, or deplete, trust. For 16 years I’ve stepped over bodies to carry water for my friends in labor including teachers, public employees, low wage workers, and the building trades. But this past February, when I was being attacked politically and legally for asking questions about municipal hiring practices, and challenged in my endorsement for the same, there was a group that really came through when I needed it – and that was the building trades. The building trades have asked me to stick with them on this, and that’s what I am going to do, with the understanding that the building trades will help us win a DFL majority next year where we are not talking about dedicating taxes on poor people to fund transportation, but instead raising revenue progressively in a state of robust resources. That’s the way we’ll make a better Minnesota – when all of us are pulling the same direction.