I worked for the Research Department of the Minnesota House of Representatives (“House Research”) for over 40 years as a legislative analyst and it legal services coordinator for most of those years.
House Research is a nonpartisan office. During my career the House alternated between being controlled by (or run by) the Democratic and Republican caucuses. I found good qualities in both parties’ approaches to policy problems and issues; working for members of both parties was refreshing. In general, it was most enjoyable working for members who were flexible problem solvers, rather than ideologues who insist on preconceived policies or approaches. Unfortunately, it seems that there are more of the latter now than earlier in my career or I may just have become an old curmudgeon. In any case, a long career as a nonpartisan staffer for a very political institution has helped me to see multiple sides of and approaches to state tax policy issues and problems.
For nearly all of my tenure as a legislative analyst, I staffed the House Taxes Committee working on state and local tax issues (hence SALT) – mainly tax-exempt bonding, corporate tax, individual income tax, tax increment financing, excise taxes, and general fiscal matters. I also served as the de facto in-house general counsel for the House of Representatives as legal services coordinator. In that capacity I worked on legislative process issues and related matters, including litigation that the House was occasionally involved in (such as sporadic conflicts with the executive branch over the validity of vetoes, phrasing of the voters’ questions for constitutional amendments, the legality of governor’s unallotments, and similar).
I enjoyed (most of) my job and career and I decided to write this blog to help me keep up with ongoing developments. Hence, much of what I expect to be writing about will be SALT issues and occasionally legislative process issues – typically the stuff I’m reading about in the press or professional journals or seeing the legislature do.
A second purpose for the blog is that I find that writing compels me to be more rigorous and careful in my thinking. I find it is easy to read or hear something and quickly to reach a conclusion or make an observation that carefully writing down shows to be on weaker grounds (or completely unfounded) than I initially thought.
Although I am a lawyer by training, I rely heavily on economic analysis in evaluating public policy. In law school, I worked as a research assistant for a law professor who was an early adopter of the law and economics approach, which solidified my interest in economics that had been stimulated by a smattering of undergrad and grad economics courses. As a result, some of my posts may reflect my amateur interest in economics. I am also a history buff (a prime hobby) and some posts may reflect that interest – particularly my interest in the history of the Minnesota legislature and its processes.