By Rep. Dean Urdahl
The House majority has approved a plan to raise taxes and fees on Minnesotans by some $3 billion. This amounts to an estimated cost of $550 per person in Minnesota.
That is $3 billion from hard-working taxpayers to erase a $627 shortfall, which is projected to turn into a $1 billion surplus even without raising taxes. Thus, by prioritizing, we can still meet spending needs. The proposed tax increases are not driven by a shortfall at all, rather they are being proposed so government can spend money more than twice as fast as our revenue is growing.
Democrats spent all fall advocating tax increases on the “rich” to fix our budget. Unfortunately, the plan they passed in the House affects all of us, regardless of income level. Tax increases on alcohol (203 percent), cigarettes (113 percent) and a new tax on Internet purchases would be quite regressive. So would increasing the income tax on earners making as little as $22,000, as their bill does.
This tax increase would be largest in at least 30 years, even when adjusting for inflation. I have huge concerns over how these tax increases and extra government spending would stifle our economy. The latest KSTP/SurveyUSA poll shows only 9 percent of respondents favor tax increases as the primary method of balancing our budget.
And, where is the money going? The House majority’s plan would generate another $3 billion in revenue, yet they propose cutting $26 million to baseline funding for long-term care facilities like nursing homes. K-12 education – our greatest state expenditure – receives a $227 million bump from current appropriations. That leaves around $2.75 billion in taxes and fees paid by Minnesotans spent on things other than our children and most vulnerable citizens.
This lack of priorities is glaring. It may be a case where if you try to make everything a priority, you in fact have no priorities. The better approach is a more efficient, effective and responsible government, not one that takes more hard-working taxpayer money and wastes it. That is where we focused our budget efforts in 2011 and our bottom line has been improving ever since.
The Senate and Gov. Mark Dayton have starkly different plans from the House. You would think control of all three areas would make for a smooth budget process, but their approaches have been anything but cohesive. The common denominator is they all propose raising taxes by billions in order to pay for more spending, with the House’s being the most costly.
We can only hope the House’s plan for $3 billion in more taxes and fees is stripped down through the conference committee process. If not, Minnesotans will be the second-highest taxed citizens in our great nation.