In the Spotlight

News & Features
Go to Session 2003
DocumentSession 2003
DocumentBudget and Taxes
DocumentHigher Education
DocumentK-12 Education
DocumentHealth and Welfare
DocumentPublic Safety
More from MPR
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Minneapolis couple fights to put "t" word on the table
Larger view
Alexandra Ellison her husband Chuck Tomlinson, and baby Ella in Minneapolis. (MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)
As the Legislature heads into the closing days of the debate over how to eliminate the budget deficit, a Minneapolis couple has entered the fray. They've started a Web site and a lawn-sign campaign and are calling on lawmakers to keep tax increases on the negotiating table.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Happy to pay for a better Minnesota. That's what the sign says at the home of Alexandra Ellison and her husband Chuck Tomlinson in Minneapolis.

"I was born here, Chuck was born here. We live in a state that we're just so happy with, and we want it to remain successful. And people are willing to pay for that, happy to pay for that, Alexandra Ellison says.

The husband-and-wife tax activists set up a "happy to pay" Website to "remind Minnesotans that taxes are not inherently evil."

They say they've received hundreds of positive responses, and a few very nasty ones.

The couple and their 15 month old daughter live in the Powderhorn neighborhood of Minneapolis. He works at the University of Minnesota; she has a small recycling business she runs out of their home.

Alexandra describes herself as a fiscal conservative and says they do not endorse any particular plan or method of generating more revenue for the state. She says she supports the idea of improved efficiency in government spending. But not if those cuts dig into programs that she feels create a healthy society.

"I am very upset by education cuts, early childhood cuts, health cuts. LGA cuts. The city of Minneapolis where I live, and I live across the street from a jewel of the city - Powderhorn Park. And the unallotting alone really really damaged our neighborhood as far as our after-school enrichment programs. The park budget's going to be cut," she says.

The couple has sold or donated 2,500 Happy to Pay lawn signs, and another 20,000 Happy to Pay postcards to be sent to lawmakers and the media.

Sen. David Gaither says he salutes the couple's creativity and industry. But the Plymouth Republican says doesn't believe most Minnesotans share their view.

"The public has a very low appetite for that right now - for raising taxes," he says.

Gaither says the critics of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's no-tax pledge suggest a dire future for the state that Gaither just doens't believe is out there. He says with the multi-billion dollar deficit looming, hard choices have to be made.

"Increasing spending is probably the easiest thing to do. The difficulty is in decreasing or deciding what is it that core government services should or should not be. That's the challenge and that's the difficulty. And I don't think the state has shown a history of being able to do that without some dramatic consequence for not doing it.(There are) 4.2 billion reasons to focus on looking at spending," Gaither says.

Gaither believes the Republican plan should be tried for at least two or three years and then possibly reassessed to see if adjustments are needed.

But Jim Koppel of the Children's Defense Fund Minnesota says a cut now- worry later strategy to programs like Minnesota Care, would bring irreversible damage.

"I feel badly for those families without healthcare coverage in the next two or three years, before we do it - when we find out, that we've gone to far. You can't undo the damage. You can't undo the neglect. You can't undo the damage to those kids and those families," says Koppel.

Koppel is also a "Happy to Pay" supporter. He admits with time getting ever shorter in the Legislative session, the ideas of Happy to pay may not have the kind of influence needed to succeed this year.

Happy to Pay" is coordinating community meetings across the state Tuesday night. Tax couple Ellison and Tomlinson say in Minneapolis, there will be guest speakers and letter writing.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects