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Editorial: Dayton's plan offers good starting point

No matter what you think of Governor Mark Dayton's budget plan, you have to give him credit for at least putting some worthy ideas up for debate.

Dayton's plan, released last week, includes a broad mix of tax increases, tax reductions, rebates, spending increases and cost-saving measures. It contains a lot of information to digest, ponder, study and weigh.

The plan shouldn't be dismissed or rejected simply because it's coming from a Democrat. Yet, predictably, that's what has been happening.

Dayton had barely left the microphone when partisan groups began the drumbeat of criticism. The Taxpayer's League of Minnesota labeled Dayton as a "taxaholic" with "true socialistic tendencies" and blasted his plan as a "tidal wave of tax increases." Republican leaders instantly rejected it, saying it will cripple the economy and accused Dayton of "taking money from families to grow government."

Of course, this same kind of rhetoric would have been spewing from DFL sources if a Republican governor had been releasing the budget proposal.

It's this kind of political yammering that constituents are sick of hearing. Whenever any party proposes any idea, it's instantly assailed with attacks, negativity and caustic name calling. Instead of cynical critiques from the opposing party, wouldn't it be refreshing to hear about the parts of a plan that it actually agrees with? There has to be something in it that has merit. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they could build off another party's idea instead of trying to tear the whole thing down?

In this latest instance, Dayton acknowledged that his proposal is just the start of a conversation. He expects disagreement from others, including some from within his own party, and he challenged those who don't like the plan to come up with their own proposals.

It's a challenge that the Legislature should embrace without political baggage dragging down the debate.

An idea is out there with some concrete measures to explore. Should Minnesota tax clothing on items $100 or more? Should taxes be expanded on certain services such as haircuts and auto repairs? Should those making $150,000 or more pay more in taxes? Should property owners receive a rebate of up to $500? Should property taxes for businesses be frozen for two years? (A story containing more details of Dayton's plan and its impact on Douglas County is in today's issue.)

As the state struggles to balance its budget and shore up its financial future, those ideas should be thoroughly considered, tweaked and weighed against other options.

The public also needs to do its part by contacting legislators with their support or concerns. They should also be wary about political scare tactics and labeling that can muddy ideas before they've even had a chance to sprout.