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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Kalin’s Opinion Letter

The following is a letter to the editor in the January 9th Star Tribune by Rep. Jeremy Kalin (D-17B). Source: Strib and here.

Make it transparent

The Jan. 4 editorial "Make JOBZ more accountable to public" [find it here] made a very good point, but omitted a missed opportunity last legislative session.

My home, Chisago County, is home to two high-profile JOBZ projects: Andersen Windows in North Branch and Polaris Industries in Wyoming. The return on our public investment in these projects is unknown -- even basic facts are unclear. The state's Department of Employment and Economic Development job-growth numbers significantly differ from those reported to our local economic development authorities.

I authored the 2007 JOBZ Oversight Bill, a bipartisan bill to provide the state auditor access to confidential tax-return data related to JOBZ projects -- on an ongoing basis, rather than only for special reports by the legislative auditor. My JOBZ oversight provision was included in the Omnibus Tax Bill, passed by the Legislature but vetoed by the governor.

The bill was praised by all sides of the JOBZ debate. Those who think JOBZ is great believe that more oversight would show a successful program. JOBZ skeptics like myself believe more oversight will expose its failures. Unfortunately, the veto stamp left all of us unsatisfied, still waiting for more information, again.

The governor and the Legislature must embrace oversight and transparency at every turn possible. Only after making information readily accessible to policymakers and the public can we ask the key question: Is JOBZ providing a good return on our public investment?


The January 3rd editorial makes it clear the Office of the Legislative Auditor will provide its report on JOBZ in February. Not many would support not requiring accountability of the use of tax dollars in private economic development.

Kalin authored the 2007 JOBZ Oversight Bill. He bemoans, "My JOBZ oversight provision was included in the Omnibus Tax Bill, passed by the Legislature but vetoed by the governor." Kalin blames the Governor, but Kalin should be blaming fellow liberal, Larry Pogemiller.

Governor Pawlenty vetoed the Omnibus Tax Bill because it contained a provision to index the expenditures of the bill to inflation. Pawlenty had written a letter to the Senate to warn them of this potential veto. According to Sarah Janecek, "Pogemiller added the inflation provision to the tax bill and did not tell Tax Committee Chair Bakk he did that." Read her full story here.

Kalin’s bill was probably beneficial and probably would have been signed by the Governor under different circumstances. But rather than nailing the real culprit, Pogemiller, Kalin nails Pawlenty. Come on! Be a man! Lay the blame where it belongs. Tell the whole truth. Pawlenty was true to his forewarning. Pogemiller pulled a fast one on the legislature.

Even with Kalin’s good intentions in that bill, it’s hard to respect a politician who puts politics before people.

1 comment:

GOP Mom said...

It would be interesting if Kalin actually came on here from time to time to respond to our concerns. I'm not holding my breath though.