This letter was sent to Tom Bakk today.
4620 Minnesota Lane
Plymouth, MN 55446
January 11, 2013
As you might have guessed, I was disappointed when Republicans lost control of the state
Senate last year. I saw something of a silver lining, however, when you were elected Senate
majority leader. From my time in the state House, I remember you as a Democrat who could work
with Republicans -- someone who was willing to push back on the government-centered vision
many in the DFL hold.
I saw you display that leadership up close in 2006 when you and I co-sponsored eminent domain
reform in the Legislature.
The bill that we carried together in ‘06 addressed the fundamental injustice of the U.S. Supreme
Court’s Kelo decision. Kelo granted government broad eminent domain power to take a person’s
property and transfer it to another private person or business for economic development.
You and I both recognized that government does not have the moral authority to take a person’s
property simply because government bureaucrats believe the property might generate more tax
revenue if used differently by another private person or entity. After months of hearings and
negotiations, we passed legislation significantly restricting the ability of government to take a
person’s property for economic development.
The interest groups lining up against our bill -- private and public -- were numerous and
powerful. We both took political risks in carrying that bill, but I recognize the risks you took were
greater than mine.
I also recognize that you had the more difficult task getting eminent domain reform through the
DFL-controlled Senate, where many of your colleagues were concerned about limiting
government’s eminent domain powers.
Nonetheless, you got the job done because you understood the Kelo decision was inherently
unfair and a terrible example of government expanding a necessary authority beyond its
This is why I was surprised last week when I read in the Pioneer Press that your concept of tax
reform is “not going to be a revenue-neutral proposal … It’s going to have to raise some revenue.”
(Pioneer Press, “Even a majority isn’t always easy to manage”, 12-30-12).
Our current tax system, which taxes productivity, is in dire need of change. It was written in a
very different time and is both unfair and inefficient. Any time you have a narrow tax base and
high rates, you curtail production and job growth. That’s why Gov. Dayton’s obsession with taxing
the rich is such bad policy. The governor's policy further narrows the tax base and creates higher
tax rates, which stifles productivity and leads to higher consumer prices, lower wages and fewer
jobs. It’s a policy that hurts everyone, but it hurts middle- and lower-income people the most.
On the other hand, I’ve thought you’ve been on the right track when talking about broadening the
tax base and lowering tax rates. Economists and Republicans have been pushing that concept
for some time, and while there is much debate about how to lower the rates and broaden the
base, it’s the right framework for a tax reform discussion. We will not solve our structural budget
woes in this state unless we grow the economy - and raising taxes certainly will not do that.
Championing the government’s revenue needs over the individual’s right to keep what he or she
has earned is precisely what you fought against when you championed the individual over
government in eminent domain reform.
The power to tax is much like the power of eminent domain. Both are necessary – but limited -
government powers. It is necessary for government to tax to carry out its constitutional functions;
it is not necessary for government to tax by grabbing individual earnings – property or income –
simply because a government-centered bureaucracy wants more revenue.
We both know Governor Dayton is fixated on increasing taxes in 2013. Raising taxes, even if you
call it “reform,” will solve nothing, and it will waste a tremendous opportunity to create a more fair
and efficient, broad-based and low rate tax structure that promotes our common objective --
productivity, innovation and jobs.
I recognize that resisting the governor on this will entail real political risk for you, but you’ve taken
great risk before to stand up for the people of Minnesota over the power of government.
I’m hopeful you’ll do it again, Tom – stand up for Minnesota taxpayers and let them keep more of
what they earn, just like you fought with me to let them keep their homes and businesses from
government takings in 2006.
I’ll be rooting for you.