Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, is criticizing Saint Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt for calling on Gov. Mark Dayton and the GOP-controlled Legislature to “not rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to those living in poverty.”
In a letter to Dayton, Nienstedt said “increasing the depth and breadth of poverty is bad fiscal policy and bad economic policy.”
Dayton and GOP legislative leaders are at an impasse over the best way to craft a two year budget. Dayton wants to raise income taxes on Minnesota’s top earners to erase part of a $5 billion projected budget deficit. Republicans say the deficit can be erased without a tax increase.
In a letter dated June 10, Hann took offense with Nienstedt’s letter (Hann’s letter and Nienstedt’s full letters are below).
“I was extremely disappointed to learn you endorse the socialist fiction that it is a moral necessity to take the property of the “wealthy” under the assumption that those resources are better used by politicians and bureaucrats than by the individuals who earn them. You speak of hopes the governor will create justice by adopting a budget that “does not rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services.” Although not said explicitly, I take your statement to mean the proposed legislative budget does that.”
Hann goes on to defend the GOP budget plan as being the largest in the state’s history and he writes that it spends more on K-12 education and health and human services programs than the current two year budget.
“I take offense at the description the legislative budget proposal as, “increasing the depth and breadth of poverty.” For you to do so in akin to me suggesting the Church favors abortion and same sex marriage because you support a governor who has made these issues a central part of his “moral” calculus.”
“Certainly we need to be charitable to the neediest among us. Are government programs charitable? Is a pathway to human dignity found in creating dependence on government and suggesting to people that their lives would be better but for the “greedy rich” not being willing to pay their fair share?”
Hann concluded his letter by quoting Catholic theologian R.R. Reno who said, “A Christian who hopes to follow the teachings of Jesus needs to reckon with a singular fact about American poverty: Its deepest and most debilitating deficits are moral, not financial: the most serious deprivations are cultural not economic.”
“It would seem to me the Church has a large task in correcting the moral deficits of our citizens,” Hann wrote. “Telling people they have the moral claim on someone else’s property is wrong and certainly doesn’t help in that work. What the Legislature has tried to do is what you, and every individual and organization in the state tries to do: Do the best we can with what we have.”
Hann has not returned a call to MPR News to talk more about his letter.
Update: Hann, who is not Catholic, told MPR News that he stands by his letter.
“They do many many good things,” Hann said. “They have taken a position on the marriage issue (the Catholic Church supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage) and I support that. They have taken a position on abortion, which I think is right, and I support that but on the issue of the morality of imposing higher taxes to allow government to spend money, I think they have that wrong. I felt an obligation to point that out…
Hann said he has not spoken with the archbishop about his letter but said he is willing to talk with him or anyone else on his staff.
Here’s Hann’s full letter:
Here’s Nienstedt’s letter: