ST. PAUL (CN) – Gov. Tim Pawlenty is trying to balance the state budget illegally by refusing tax refunds to people who donate to political campaigns, a class action claims in Ramsey County Court. The program offers political donors up to $50 each, to encourage political participation. Pawlenty told the state tax department to kill it effective July 1, saying it will save the state $10.4 million over the next two years.
But lead plaintiff Robert Carney Jr. says Pawlenty doesn’t have the power to do that. The refund is mandated, and neither the governor nor co-defendant Commissioner of Revenue Ward Einess is allowed to unilaterally amend tax policy. Carney says the refund program is an “important aspect of our political process.”
Pawlenty in June authorized the revenue department to kill the refund program to help balance the state’s budget during the 2010-2011 biennium. His order took effect July 1.
Previously, taxpayers could get a refund of up to $50 for their campaign contributions by submitting a receipt for the contribution along with a form to the stats Department of Revenue.
Carney says he donated $50 to the Green Party and was denied a refund. He estimates that more than 100,000 Minnesotans have applied for the refund each biennium, adding that the refund “encourage(es) political participation while mitigating the contributor’s financial commitment.” The class wants the refunds, costs and an injunction, is represented by Karl Cambronne with Chestnut & Cambronne of Minneapolis.