Avenues to revenues

Crunch time continues as Minnesota legislators play cat-and-mouse with Gov. Tim Pawlenty over the $1 billion state budget deficit. Pawlenty maintains his increasingly irrational stance against new taxes in favor of more and deeper spending cuts. Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, published an opinion column in the Bemidji Pioneer discussing Tim StinsonâÄôs recent testimony before the Taxes Committee last week. Stinson, who serves as PawlentyâÄôs state tax economist, provided a less-than-optimistic overview of economic recovery. By his analysis, cutting spending may have a more negative impact than increasing taxes. Meanwhile, legislators are busily introducing measures intended to restock the stateâÄôs coffers. Representatives from both parties have introduced bills cutting the overall sales tax level and ending a long-standing tax exemption for clothing items and certain services. Another promising proposal would implement a 5-cent tax on plastic bags in stores, helping the stateâÄôs bankroll and the environment at the same time. Others advocate less conventional solutions. In Colorado, legislators crafted a bill to systematically free nonviolent drug offenders in order to save much-needed resources. Minnesota, on the other hand, is looking at building a new $89 million sex offender facility. Perhaps that amounts to a comparison between apples and nuts. Marijuana advocates also point to CaliforniaâÄôs $14 billion medical marijuana market as a model for state revenue generation. With the metroâÄôs possible expansion of âÄúracinos,âÄù it appears most lawmakers can compromise on sin taxes. Regardless, any solutions must survive PawlentyâÄôs aggressive veto habit; legislators have been too hesitant to challenge the governorâÄôs obstructions.