Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thousands Hold Tea Parties At Capitol On Tax Day

Minnesota lawmakers are facing two deadlines that will be at the center of the budget showdown. While they're talking money inside, thousands of people are gathering outside the Capitol for tea party protests. The rallies are being held to mark the day federal income tax returns are due, in hopes of getting their message against rising federal government spending heard. The tax protesters know they've got a tough battle head of them, with the state facing a $4.6 billion budget deficit. Democrats who dominate the House and Senate are almost certain to pass huge tax increases but that's not going over well with some Minnesotans. Both the House and Senate have set targets for the amount of revenue they want to raise. The Senate: $2 billion; the House: $1.5 billion. The primary targets are expected to be income and sales taxes. Earlier Wednesday, there was a much smaller counter-demonstration promoting higher taxes on the wealthy Minnesotans.And inside the Capitol, another group pitched their message of what good things tax money is used for. Senate Tax Committee Chair Tom Bakk, DFL, is aware of the protests, but he says the state can't balance the budget with spending cuts alone. "People don't want to take the criticism, but I think where we find ourselves is because of the economy the state's revenues are down significantly," Bakk explained. Most of the protesters say they believe the budget can be balanced without raising taxes. While they know they have Gov. Tim Pawlenty on their side, they're worried he might not win a veto battle with the democratically controlled legislature. Rallies were held in 16 cities, including Austin, Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, Fairmont, Mankato, Milaca, North Branch, Rochester, St. Cloud, and Owatonna. The largest was in St. Paul at the Capitol, where thousands of people gathered on the front lawn.