Taxes and the Minnesota's DFL-dominated Legislature were on the hot seat Saturday as more than 600 people attended the annual Taxpayers Freedom Rally.
The conservative event was particularly important this year after a disappointing election for Republicans last fall, said Phil Krinkie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.
"This is a great opportunity to get people remotivated," added Dan McGrath, president of Minnesota Majority, which organized the event with Krinkie's group. "There are a lot of dejected people. And I think it helps re-energize them."
The event, which has been likened to a conservative state fair, drew more than 30 booths of political groups and other organizations to the State Capitol grounds. Hundreds of people from across the region listened to state legislators, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, talk-show host Jason Lewis and national antitax activist Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform.
"We just want to be left alone," Norquist said. "The left is like a teenage boy on a prom date; they keep asking for the same thing in different ways."
Although 2014 is still a ways off, the election was referenced by both Bachmann, who is headed for a rematch with St. Cloud businessman Jim Graves, and Lewis, who's been mentioned as a potential challenger to U.S. Sen. Al Franken.
"The recovery begins in Washington when Al Franken loses his job," Lewis said to cheers from the crowd.
The antitax message drew many of the attendees, from a Stillwater man threatening to move to Wisconsin to Cindy Yager of Dayton, who said many of her friends are planning to move to states like Florida, Arizona or Texas if the tax climate in Minnesota doesn't change.
"I'm waking up to what is really happening out there, and I don't like it," she said.
Parking a chair in the Capitol lawn on the sunny Saturday, Karleen Bushard of Crystal said she hasn't missed the rally in more than a decade. The software developer said that, as she and her husband approach retirement, they're more concerned about the impact taxes will have on their futures.
"It seems they're [politicians] encroaching more and more in places they don't have any business," she said.
To show the "wasteful government" in Minnesota, Senate Minority Leader David Hann started off his speech listing potential new state taxes.
"Hardworking taxpayers cannot afford [Gov.] Mark Dayton and the DFL majorities in the Legislature," said Hann, R-Eden Prairie. "They're going to be serving up the biggest taxapalooza in the state, and we're going to pay for it."
DFL Chairman Ken Martin, however, said most Minnesotans support Dayton's proposal to increase taxes for the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans.
"While Grover and his wealthy friends are saying 'No,' " he said in a statement, "Minnesotans are saying 'Yes.' "
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141