Saturday, March 22, 2014

What The Hann? Tax Cut Edition

In the 2013 legislative session, the DFL controlled legislature passed a several billion dollar tax hike package on the people of Minnesota. Despite their claims to the contrary, the end result of this action was that millions of Minnesotans saw their tax burden increase.

Yesterday, the legislature passed a tax bill that rolled back some of those tax increases.  House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt had a great statement on the bill passed yesterday that sums up what happened:

"This bill is a good start but it falls woefully short. It doesn’t undo the damage and chaos Democrats’ tax increases created for farmers, small businesses and families over the past year.”

“House Republicans have stood beside hardworking taxpayers since Day One and voted unanimously against these tax increases last year. While Republicans weren’t part of the problem then, we are part of the solution today.”

(As far as press statements go, this one is really a work of art. You should really read the whole thing.)

Daudt’s colleague in the Senate, Minority Leader David Hann, took an altogether different approach.

After encouraging his caucus to vote for the tax bill, Hann switched his vote at the last minute. When asked to explain the reason for his decision, he told the Associated Press:

"This is not the Republican plan. This is part of a huge tax increase."

The measure passed the Senate 58-5, with 23 Republican Senators voting for it. Hann and Senator Dave Brown were the only two dissenting Republican votes.  Hann did not inform his caucus of his intent to vote against the bill in advance.

Following Hann’s logic that the bill is “part of a huge tax increase,” the Senate Minority Leader told the press that 23 of his colleagues just voted for a “huge tax increase.”  This stunning statement did not go unnoticed among the Senate caucus.

It also did not go unnoticed in the House, where the Republican caucus there was preparing to vote unanimously in favor of the bill.  Fortunately (if that’s the right term to use) the House caucus has much experience with the Senate’s inept messaging attempting to derail them, and was able to get through the vote unified and on message.

In the time since the vote, I have heard a number of theories as to why Hann did what he did, ranging from the staggeringly silly (was it an accident?) to the Machiavellianly complex (that Hann is trying to hurt Jennifer Loon by painting her vote for this bill as a tax increase).

That Republican Senators would be desperately seeking to invent theories as to why their caucus leader would throw them under the bus is totally understandable- after all, nobody wants to think they voted for a moron for Minority Leader.

However, I believe that the reason for Hann’s decision is much simpler: he just didn’t think through the ramifications of his actions. And then when asked about it by a member of the press who happens to be more politically astute than he is, Hann gave an off-the-cuff (read: honest) response as to why he changed his vote. He saw this as a vote for tax increases, not a vote to cut taxes.

Hann has a long history of tin-eared political action and bad decision making. This is, after all, the man who started his own Draft Hann for Governor movement just weeks after being elected minority leader. He’s also a guy that surrounds himself exclusively with yes-men and “friends.

His vote yesterday, and the bone-headed explanation he gave following that vote is just Hann being Hann.

As I wrote in my last post on the subject, I feel that Hann as Minority Leader is a liability in a position where we desperately need an asset.

Now the Senate Republican Caucus needs to decide whether Hann being Hann is good enough for the next 3 years.