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As others see it: The clock is ticking

Don Davis/State Capitol Bureau Minnesota Gov.-elect Mark Dayton, a Democrat, said he found some common ground with Republican Senate leaders during a Thursday meeting. Looking on are incoming Assistant Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel and Majority Leader Amy Koch.

Minnesota legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton are about to hit crunch time in crafting the next two-year state budget.

As the DFL governor, DFL House and DFL Senate do so, it's worth revisiting what they did -- and didn't -- promise to do while also pointing out how some of their other ideas and actions could indirectly reach into the pockets of Minnesotans. ...

First, yes, Dayton won in 2010 by promising to increase income taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans. And yes, many of his fellow DFLers won their seats with similar promises. That said, the DFL push for your money is going far deeper than campaign promises focused on the richest 2 percent.

As of last week, various bills raised income tax rates on upper-middle class Minnesotans, championed higher taxes on beer and cigarettes, and added a "surcharge" on the highest income levels. In addition, House measures generate an additional $300 million for the state by implementing a variety of fee hikes and surcharges.

Collectively, those strategies go beyond just taxing the rich. To make matters worse, though, there are other legislative proposals and actions not tied directly to the state budget that still could reach deep into taxpayer pockets.

Topping that list is the unclear cost of implementing federal health care reform through the state's newly passed health insurance exchange. Yes, the plan will expand coverage to more Minnesotans. But that is going to come with a cost. Who pays it? And how much?

Another looming factor is bills to increase the minimum wage. While this board backs Minnesota matching the federal wage, even that will increase costs of some employers. State proposals push the level much higher. How will that affect those businesses and their employees?

Finally, it must be noted that Dayton vowed to make long-term structural changes to the state budget to avoid deficits. For all intensive purposes, those appear to be lacking. ...

Dayton and DFL leaders know it's not too late to change, and they can start by sticking to their campaign promises these next few weeks.