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Dick Palmer: Tax numbers game suggests double talk

The Minnesota Legislature continues the tax rebate numbers game while the threat of a total state shutdown July 1 may, in fact, be a runaway train unable to stop in time.

The Minnesota Legislature continues the tax rebate numbers game while the threat of a total state shutdown July 1 may, in fact, be a runaway train unable to stop in time.
The two political philosophies in the Minnesota Legislature have come to a fork in the road. One, by conservative lawmakers, suggests that Minnesotans have been overtaxed, and they want to give some of the overcollected money back to the taxpayers. Conservatives also want to cut existing tax formulas as well.
The liberals, on the other hand, want to take a large share of the excess tax dollars and spend it on new and existing government programs, especially on public education. To determine who is right and who is wrong is not a simple black and white issue. It is complicated and filled with what ifs.
No doubt public education is having difficult times these days, especially up here in the Northland. The Arrowhead country is plagued by declining enrollments in our public schools caused principally by a lack of job opportunities for younger, goal-oriented families. They are moving out in substantial numbers, spreading the tax load on fewer people.
This is no secret; it is a fact of life. The problem didnot just surface. It has been a way of life in these parts for several decades of declining opportunities and a lack of government leadership that turned the other cheek and looked to government itself as the ultimate solution.
Presently, the Legislature is in special session attempting to resolve a basic liberal philosophy of tax and spend vs. a conservative vent to allow the people to retain some of the excess money that has been taken from them and then adjust tax formulas to fit the needs of the economy with realism and responsibility. It is not as easy as it sounds.
What we have here is a philosophy that money will solve any problem. The theory isn't working and can't work without some serious checks and balances. The way money is being spent in the educational arena, is it any wonder enormous salaries and fringes offered top echelon administrators and even some teaching positions are sidetracking the basic needs of the kids? When establishing an educational budget, what should come first, the chicken or the egg? Is too much being spent on non-educational frills? Local school boards should bite the bullet and address this tangled web.
Finally, we continually talk about cutting real estate taxes. This is double talk considering the fact that tax formulas get cut but property market values rise, and we actually pay more than before. Let's call a timeout and address the seriousness of all this. The political rhetoric isn't the solution.

Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 729-6470 or by e-mail at rpalmer@duluth.com .

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