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Left Hand Corner: Dayton approval

Governor Dayton seems to have survived all the flap and negativism about increasing taxes this legislative session.

The major and most publicized feature of his comprehensive tax proposal was to increase state income taxes 2 percent on the top 2 percent of income earners. That increase was loudly decried by many, most of whom will likely never be affected.

It didn’t seem out of order since the new proposal basically restored income tax levels to what they were before the foolhardy cuts of 15 years ago. Those cuts ended up shortchanging education and threatening our deteriorating infrastructure. Many detractors never realized or acknowledged that the increase didn’t apply to all of the individuals’ income, but only to that amount over and above income levels most of us will never reach.

Dayton’s push for the 2 percent increase on the top 2 percent hasn’t caused an exodus of our top earning Minnesotans as some direly predicted. Nor has it driven many businesses to other states. The fact is that the vast majority of small business people in the state seldom, if ever, report a quarter million dollars in personal taxable income. Those fortunate ones can well afford the minor added assessment.

Dayton’s overall efforts to increase state revenue, with substantial legislative support, didn’t seem to hurt his standing in the long run. While his ratings fell after he made his original tax proposal, following an onslaught of criticism, the push for some increase seemed to gain acceptance as the scrutiny progressed.

Tax increases never start out popular. Almost without exception, they are castigated at inception. Early 2013 was no exception. When Dayton presented a comprehensive plan for increased revenue it was immediately shot at from every direction. And, in some aspects it was summarily shot down. Some criticism was quickly and heavily organized. Other criticism came from just about every grouping or individuals who would be called upon to pay more. Lobbyists surfaced from everywhere to protect whatever interest they represented from any level of increase.

Dayton’s poll support predictably dropped to a low of 42 percent as he announced his original tax intentions at the beginning of the 2013 legislative session. Poll results on individual office holders bounce like a rubber ball, almost on any whim or happenstance. But Dayton’s popularity actually improved as the legislative session wore on and he continued to strongly advocate the 2 percent on the top 2 percent.

Dayton now enjoys an overall 57 percent approval rating, which I believe is about the highest he’s received since taking office. That was in last week’s Minnesota Poll.

Dayton’s partisan rankings break out about as tightly as ever, but he shows minimal improvement there and has substantially higher Independent approval. A striking feature of the new poll is that Dayton support is almost at the same level from voters making over $50,000 a year as from those making less than $50,000.

It all seems that Minnesotans in general finally acknowledge a need to return to honest budgeting, and to do so, there was necessity of a modest increase in tax income.

It also indicates that the doom and gloom directed at the 2 percent on 2 percent increase was ill-placed. Enough of the fortunate few in the covered category hopefully sensed the fairness of it. For once, the hype and virulence didn’t resonate and carry the day.