Two leaders, different approaches

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November 19, 2002 // UPDATED 1:33 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Terrell Brown
Terrell Brown

Tim Pawlenty will lead the state; R.T. Rybak leads the city.

One won't raise taxes, the other has said he will for the next 10 years.

The ink may not have yet been dry on last month's election results when Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was complaining to a Skyway News reporter about Soon-to-Be Governor Tim

Pawlenty. Those comments had been reported, edited, printed and made it to the street in less than a week after the election.

Rybak may have still been reeling from the aftereffects of the candidate he was supporting failing to win the election. I supported still another guy whose election night party was not a victory celebration. Still, who benefits when the Mayor of the largest city in the state starts picking fights with the Governor-elect? Shouldn't we being looking to find ways that we can be working together for common goals?

So far, it looks to be a one-way fight. The Soon-to-Be Governor has indicated support for the local government aids that represent about one-third of the City of Minneapolis' revenue, money for the Guthrie Theatre (passed by the Legislature but vetoed by Gov. Ventura earlier this year) and letting the Mayor back into the run for locating a new Twins stadium in Minneapolis.

These guys have some similarities. Both were born in Minnesota, both held private sector (real) jobs prior to being elected, are of similar age and neither ran a particularly clean campaign to get elected as both faced allegations of demonizing their opponents.

They sure have different ideas about government and especially the taxes that it collects.

Pawlenty has announced that he will not support tax increases -- at a time when the State of Minnesota expects a significant revenue shortfall. To balance the state budget without raising any taxes will be a significant feat. I'm not sure he can pull it off. Everything the state spends money on has somebody who thinks it's a good idea.

Rybak has taken the opposite position. He has announced a plan to double taxes over the next nine years. Give Rybak credit, he does understand marketing. He has tried to position this as limiting annual levy increases to 8 percent for the next decade. Do the math: 8 percent per year results in doubling the levy in only nine years. That positioning will lose some of its glow when people start paying their property tax bills.

It gets worse. He only wants to limit the increase in the levy. Increased taxes from increasing property values come on top of that. Since a huge percentage of Downtown residents live in rental housing with its even-higher tax rates, we take bigger increases.

The Mayor and Council threw a power play into the deal. The Park and Library Boards don't get the same percentage increases for their budgets that the Mayor and Council get for theirs.

I doubt that many of the city's residents expect their income to double in the next nine years; I'd rather see a cost of government that rises at a rate that is similar to the incomes of those paying for it. Perhaps this may be the plan that causes the Mayor to find a new line of work.

Rybak has another stunt that is reminiscent of the financial crisis New York City had a few decades ago. He plans to sell $165 million in bonds to pay a portion of the city's pension expenses for the next few years. This would increase the city's bond debt by 10 percent and be repaid with interest with future property tax revenues. He already has City Council approval for the first year of this plan with $35 million of borrowing.

Minneapolis is the economic engine that drives the state, Downtown is the fuel that makes the engine run. If you think not, then why are so many people making daily treks into the core of the city? The Governor-elect must remember this as he moves from representing one suburban legislative district to representing everyone in Minnesota.

This broadening of responsibilities is something the Mayor's comments suggest he doesn't understand. Rybak bases his criticism on what Pawlenty has done as a representative of part of Eagan, instead of someone who will be looking out for the good of the entire state.

Terrell Brown lives in Loring Park and works Downtown.