Ralph Doty, Let's rename taxes 'green fees'

The line between the definitions of "tax" and "fee" is becoming increasingly blurred. Of course, Minnesota is not the only state in which politicians are trying to raise money for public services without resorting to the dreaded "T" word. The man...

The line between the definitions of "tax" and "fee" is becoming increasingly blurred. Of course, Minnesota is not the only state in which politicians are trying to raise money for public services without resorting to the dreaded "T" word. The mantra seems to be: Call an increase in taxes and assessment anything you want, just don't call them taxes.

The classic case, of course, is the recommendation of Gov. Tim Pawlenty that the cigarette tax be increased by 75 cents a pack, but only under the condition everyone call it a "Health Impact Fee." A majority of legislators, Democrats and Republicans alike, bought into the charade and approved the increase.

Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson apparently likes the idea of fees and wants to impose increases on some so-called nontax revenue sources in his 2006 budget, including an increase to $12 on parking tickets and a hike in admission fees at the Lake Superior Zoo. Sources in City Hall tell me that a list of other fee increases -- and perhaps some new ones -- is being prepared for presentation to the City Council next month.

I don't think it's possible that Bergson can raise current fees enough, or create new fees, to make up for what he could have raised if property taxes were increased. So, from John Louis Anderson, here's an idea the mayor might consider as a method of disguising an increase in taxes.

Anderson, author of "Ferocious Common Sense," says lawmakers at all levels should rename taxes and call them "green fees." He says the change in what taxes are called might make tax increases more palatable.


Writing in a guest column several years ago in the Star Tribune, Anderson says labeling taxes as green fees might attract the support of people of all political persuasions.

Many Republicans belong to country clubs and might support taxes that are labeled green fees because "every year, the greens fees go up to prevent the spread of godless crab grass. And every year they grumble a little and then fork over the bucks, because they know, no green fees, no par."

Anderson thinks calling taxes green fees would also attract the support of Democrats because "it sounds sort of environmental, like getting a wildlife car license that doesn't make it look as if you're a hunter."

And "all the dodos who voted for Ralph Nader would think they're contributing to the Green Party" when they pay their taxes.

Finally, he says, "the Irish of all political parties would support it, and suburbanites would be told it has to do with healthy lawns."

I wonder what Mayor Bergson thinks about the idea.

Stadium sense

For months after the Minnesota Legislature adjourned its long special session earlier this year, Governor Pawlenty was under intense pressure to call another special session to vote on three new Twin Cities' stadiums for the Twins, Vikings and the University of Minnesota. He waffled for a long time, as did the House and Senate leadership. Finally, the governor said if he and legislative leaders could come up with a pre-agreement on approving stadium funding, he'd call the lawmakers back to St. Paul for a short special session.


Then some legislators not in the leadership circle spoke up -- loudly. When Republican House speaker Steve Sviggum polled his GOP legislators on whether they favored a special session for stadiums, the lawmakers gave Sviggum a resounding "no way." They didn't like the idea of making a trip to the capitol to -- in the words of Hermantown DFL lawmaker Rep. Mary Murphy -- turn "millionaire owners into billionaires."

And just like that, talk of a special session ended and Pawlenty announced the stadiums would have to wait until the regular session that begins on March 1.

Like all deliberative bodies, the Minnesota Legislature sometimes doesn't use collective good judgment to resolve issues. But killing the idea of a special legislative session -- led by rebellious House Republicans --was one in which common sense ruled the day.

Sauerkraut solution

And now, the unbelievable. On Oct. 20, the KDAL AM (610) news department received an e-mail press release saying -- and this is not fiction -- that scientists in South Korea have found a possible cure for avian flu. Here's a word-for-word portion of the news release from the Fremont Company in Ohio:

"In yet another indication that sauerkraut is the super food of the 21st century, scientists at Seoul National University have successfully used Kimchi Sauerkraut to treat chickens with avian flu. Kimchi is a seasoned variety of sauerkraut that shares lactobacillus bacteria with traditional sauerkraut, which may be the critical element in preventing avian flu."

"According to an October 2005 British Broadcasting Corporation report, Kimchi was fed to 13 infected chickens and 11 of them started recovering in a week."

I have two questions:


First, how did they persuade chickens to eat sauerkraut?

Second, why are all those pharmaceutical firms spending millions to find a cure, when the remedy for avian flu is in the nearest supermarket on the sauerkraut shelf?

Ralph Doty can be contacted at .

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