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Paul Harris, Moorhead, Published October 22 2012

Letter: Cast vote for Eken and Lien

I urge voters in Moorhead to cast their ballots for Kent Eken for state Senate and Ben Lien for House of Representatives. This election for Minnesota’s Legislature has taken on unusual significance. The retirements of Sen. Keith Langseth and Rep. Morrie Lanning have thrown these races wide open, and the control of the Legislature hangs in the balance. Eken will be a worthy successor to Sen. Langseth. Like him, Eken has deep roots in the area and a genuine understanding of our interests. I’ve known Eken for years as a dedicated teacher and highly principled legislator. Lien will be a legislator in the mold of Paul Marquardt, who has served the other half of our Senate district as a hard-working, caring and common-sense champion for our communities.

We need them to counteract the right-wing element that has dominated the Legislature in St. Paul since Republicans took control in the last election. Republican leaders pushed cuts in local government aid and education; launched a Wisconsin-style attack on public employees; put amendments on the ballot that would insert discrimination into the state Constitution and suppress voting; and shut down the state government rather than raise taxes on the rich. The local Republican candidates have tried to distance themselves from their party’s extremism. They say they support local government aid. Travis Reimche has declined to take a public stand on the constitutional amendments. Phil Hansen has even expressed discomfort with his party’s mudslinging propaganda against Eken.

Hansen ought to be embarrassed. The big-money interests smear Eken as a “job crusher,” which is Republican code for anyone who advocates raising taxes on the rich. It’s a ridiculous charge. Tax rates in Minnesota are at a 40-year low, thanks to cuts that have disproportionately benefited the wealthy. Gov. Mark Dayton proposed and Rep. Eken supported a modest tax increase on people earning more than $250,000, but their efforts to restore tax fairness and generate enough revenue to fund vital state services were beaten back. The result has hurt our local economy, not helped.

Schools and colleges are at the heart of Moorhead’s economy and have been starved for funds. Cuts to education and local government aid put pressure on local governments to raise property taxes, and higher tuition at the colleges and universities make it harder for our young people to get the education we all need them to have. Meanwhile, there is virtually no one in our area with a taxable income more than $250,000.

The conclusion seems clear. If even the Republican candidates know their party’s stance is not helpful, doesn’t it make more sense to vote for the Democratic candidates, Eken and Lien? Help stop the meanness.