Using Taxpayer Dollars to Lobby for Higher Taxes

Written by Jeff Johnson on September 1, 2009. Posted in Golden Hydrant

goldenhydrantGolden Hydrant goes to Property Tax Study Project

The latest Golden Fire Hydrant award goes to the Property Tax Study Project, an endeavor Hennepin County has funded on and off for the past decade.

Bottom line (and pardon my crudeness): Government is giving the finger to the taxpayers of Hennepin County as it spends taxpayer money to lobby the legislature for increased taxes on those same taxpayers.

The Project began several years ago and is funded jointly by the counties of Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis, the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth and the school districts of those same three cities. Each entity allocates approximately $10,000 each year to the Project.

The Project essentially funds one “consultant” (who happens to work for Matt Entenza’s liberal Minnesota 2020 think tank) year after year to prepare a report that pretty consistently says the same thing: Minnesotans are not taxed enough. That report is then used to lobby the legislature for increased taxes, apparently in hopes of obtaining more money for cities, counties and school districts in Minnesota.

This year’s report carried the headline: “Minnesota has a revenue problem, not a spending problem.” That headline was based on a chart that showed the years 2003 through 2008 and a corresponding drop in state revenue for each of those five years.

There is much to dispute with respect to the graph and headline (such as why we started with 2003 instead of, say, 2000 or 1998 – which would have shown a different trend; or why federal dollars were not included in the state revenue measurement as those are all taxpayer dollars, as well), but I won’t go there. My real issue is with the bizarre conclusion from the questionable graph.

During our discussion on this issue, I asked why state revenues had been purportedly decreasing the past few years. The answer: Businesses are struggling or going out of business and individuals are making less or losing their jobs. So….LET’S TAX THEM SOME MORE??!!

Wow.

Like last month’s Golden Hydrant, this expenditure is a small amount in the grand scheme of things (although most of my neighbors and I would argue that $10,000 per year is real money). Nonetheless, this is one of the more outrageous examples of government arrogance that I’ve seen thus far on the board. Here’s the message to our constituents: “We’re going to take your money and use it against you to argue that we don’t have enough of your money.”

Keep in mind, this is not the same as government spending on lobbying to access federal or state dollars (such as lobbying to receive federal stimulus funds, for example). While I’m not a big fan of that lobbyist spending, I understand its usefulness as we seek to obtain money to benefit our constituents that they have already paid in to the state or federal government. The Property Tax Study Project doesn’t use taxpayer dollars to lobby for access to money our taxpayers have already paid in, it uses taxpayer dollars to lobby for even higher taxes.

Trust me; I’m from the government. Oh, and I’ve got a bird here that I’d like to flip you.

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