Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Modernizing" Minnesota Government

Ed Lotterman is a regular columnist for our Pioneer Press newspaper here in Minnesota. His recent column, "Government needs to catch up to the times", argued that given "today's modern world" we don't need the decentralized government the founders of the state created due to technological change, etc. His column can be seen in full at --



Mr. Lotterman fails to note that technology does two things -- it empowers people and it allows for things to be decentralized. He just need to look at his newspaper office to realize this since most newspapers in the USA are dying while websites and social media services are booming as direct competitors.

Instead of centralizing even more power with the Minnesota state government we should close entire departments so that the money, staff, and responsibilities can be transferred to our county governments. I would much prefer 87 "mini-legislatures" (the number of counties in Minnesota) instead of all powerful legislature that treats county leaders as vassals on the estate.

Phase two of course would be for all taxpayers to get involved in their county government which is actually much easier to do for someone in International Falls, Minnesota versus driving 6 to 7 hours to St. Paul to lobby ("beg") their state legislators on issues of concern to them.

The resulting much reduced (in power and purse!) state legislature would perhaps meet for 60 days simply to play their constitutional oversight role and to adjust the state's sales tax rate because in my reform model all other taxes -- property tax, personal income taxes, corporate income taxes, estate taxes, etc. would be phased out -- leaving only the sales tax as a revenue source to be divided on a per capita basis to county governments. The parallel reform would be that all school districts, watershed districts, soil/water conservation districts, etc. would be revised to follow county boundaries. This would create the type of transparency we need because it would end the constant finger pointing we see from public officials today.


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