Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Silly Taxpayer


UPDATE IV: The House Caucus maintains that the Kalin quote is accurate and was said off mic. You can read about its response here (see the update).

UPDATE V: Click here to see how this all turned out.

Original Post:

Talk about the cold shoulder. Rep. Jeremy Kalin wanted taxpayers to fund free towing for those on welfare:

The amendment was offered by freshman DFL Rep. Jeremy Kalin to the Transportation Policy Bill (HF 1351) (Hornstein). It passed the House by a 85-47 margin on May 10, 2007 at House Journal Page 6255. The language has been dropped from the Conference Report on the bill.

During the debate, Rep. Kalin said on the House Floor that "welfare recipients are the real working people of Minnesota, because they are trying to get to the top of the economic heap."

That's our "fiscally conservative" representative. Could anything be more insulting to taxpayers? I guess if you make enough money to actually pay taxes, you no longer qualify as a "real working Minnesotan." You are now at the "top of the economic heap" and have so much money you can afford to pay for others' tows.

Congrats to you.

What? You didn't think all that schooling, sweat and toil, climbing the ladder of success was so you could have more money, did you?

UPDATE: In comments, Rep. Kalin has disputed the accuracy of the statement attributed to him by the Republican House Caucus:

I did not say what you claim I said. My amendment does not do what you said it does. Please remove the post.

While we are not in the habit of removing posts, we will certainly look into the claim and report back.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE II: I just finished listening to the debate and there are some issues here. First, the quote attributed to Kalin is not an accurate quote. Those specific words were never uttered by Kalin in the context of the debate. However, the quote does appear to be an accurate summary of what Kalin was saying on the floor, with the exception of the word "real."

Kalin does repeatedly refer to the beneficiaries of the amendment, welfare recipients, as "the working people of Minnesota." At another point, Kalin does talk at length on the subject:

I'm not a resident of Mpls. or St. Paul. I don't have a dog in this fight. But I do have a dog in the fight when it comes to making sure that the folks who are working their tails off to move off of assistance and up that economic ladder so they can become full self-sufficient taxpayers...that they have every opportunity...that we remove the hurdles of, say, a deficiency claim of several hundred dollars, because they're going to work, because they're complying with the strong welfare reform requirements that we want to see here.

He furthermore places much importance on the amendment. It will be no less than the driving force behind a "rags to riches" story that will allow Republicans to then "shelter" them from the top tier of income taxes.

In some ways, the accurate version is worse. Rep. Steve Gottwalt pointed out to Kalin that the "strong welfare reform requirements" he used as a way to characterize welfare recipients as "working Minnesotans" had been stripped recently by the Health and Human Services Committee. Was Kalin aware of that when he used the reform requirements to stroke the emotional heartstrings? Only he can say.

Furthermore, Kalin's statement in this comment section that the amendment does not accomplish what the original post suggests appears in error. The amendment absolutely exempted welfare recipients of having to pay not only for tows, but for any claims resulting from impound, putting the responsibility for paying those deficiencies squarely on the shoulders of taxpayers. Furthermore,the amendment does not appear to even attempt to limit the amount of times a welfare recipient could take advantage of the free tows and storage.

The GOP Caucus would have been well served to summarize, rather than attempt to quote, Kalin in this matter. Fashioning a quote and adding the word "real" is clearly not on the up and up. But the Caucus's representation of what Kalin accomplished was accurate (the language was later dropped from the conference report).

Welfare recipients were exempted from having to pay for tows and claims, with the charges to be paid by those other "hard working Minnesotans," the taxpayers. Kalin talks about "removing hurdles" for those hard-working welfare recipients. Considering that welfare itself removes so many hurdles, one wonders how many hurdles will be enough to produce Kalin's "rags to riches" result, and how many hurdles will be created for the taxpayers of the state in that effort.

UPDATE III: I had to go pick up GD3 from work, where she earns money to pay taxes so welfare recipients can be exempt from paying for tows and impound fees. Just kidding. In summary, the GOP House Caucus appears to have some explaining to do. But so does Kalin, who was quoted earlier in this post stating his amendment did not do what the GOP suggested. In fact it did exactly that. After all, somebody has to either pay the fees to towing and impound services, or the cities have to absorb the cost (with tax dollars) in the case of public towing entities.

Had Kalin simply stopped at contesting the quote, he would have been on solid ground, smelling like a rose. All the righteous indignation goes out the window though, when he further asserts he didn't attempt to accomplish what he was clearly trying to accomplish. For someone who felt so strongly on the House floor back in May of 2007, he sure appears to be running from it now.

Of course, it is an election year, and one in which Kalin and the DFL just passed one of the most outrageous tax increases in state history. Judging by my recent run-ins with the DFL, damage control appears to be the order of the day.

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