Senate Democrats choose Pogemiller

class=img_thumbleft>Flush from an election triumph that leaves them a single vote away from veto-proof authority in the Minnesota Senate, DFL legislators chose eight-term Sen. Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Mpls) as their Majority Leader late Thursday afternoon. Pogemiller, who replaces defeated Sen. Dean Johnson in the leadership post, is the longtime chair of the Senate Tax Committee and widely regarded as the DFL Senate's foremost expert on budgetary matters. He has also been in the forefront in opposing Governor Tim Pawlenty's shifting of the tax burden from income to property taxes over the past four years. A Pogemiller-led bill to boost income taxes for the state's wealthiest residents passed the Senate in 2005 but was not passed in the House and would have faced an almost certain veto from Pawlenty.

Despite his seniority and expertise, Pogemiller was not regarded as a slam-dunk choice for Majority Leader when the entire 44-member DFL Senate caucus convened on Thursday. In part this was because "Pogie" hails from the heart of urban Minneapolis, as does new House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher; he also has a reputation for arrogance among both opponents and some allies within the Capitol. Nevertheless, by choosing Pogemiller, Senators are signalling a welcome willingness to take on Governor Pawlenty over tax policy and other budgetary issues, at a time when nonpartisan reports from Pawlenty's own Department of Revenue show the tax burden becoming more regressive. Specifically reports show a declining overall tax burden on the state's wealthiest income earners between now and 2011, providing them with a much lower percentage than middle-class taxpayers over the same period.

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