Local view: Unfair shift in tax burden got us in the mess we're in
Democratic Reps. Tony Sertich of Chisholm and Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis asked last month for input from Minnesotans to help solve the state's budget situation ("Minnesota lawmakers want your budget solutions," Dec. 19). The state ...
Democratic Reps. Tony Sertich of Chisholm and Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis asked last month for input from Minnesotans to help solve the state's budget situation ("Minnesota lawmakers want your budget solutions," Dec. 19). The state is facing a year-end budget shortfall of$426 million and a two-year shortfall of $5.3 billion.
With the 2009 Minnesota Legislature convening today, a question can be asked: How did the state of Minnesota go from having more than $13 billion in surpluses from 1997 to 2001 to having shortfalls year after year since?
The answer is not difficult. From 2001 to 2003, the Legislature and Gov. Jesse Ventura enacted a massive shift from most heavily taxing commercial and industrial properties and the highest-valued homes to taxing, most heavily, families owning low- tomedium-valued homes. Permanent, unequal cuts in income taxes were made. Motor vehicle registration fees on the highest-valued luxury cars were cut. Then state leaders said they would fully fund K-12 education, something that is now a promise broken.
When the so-called Property Tax Reform Bill was passed, all homeowners were promised tax cuts of 15 percent. Instead, "property taxes are on pace to double every six years, leaping an average of 58 percent from 2002 to 2006," according to an August 2006 News Tribune article, reporting the results of an analysis of state records by the Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis.
I listened to Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, on Minnesota Public Radio recently. The House Minority Leader said of the budget crisis, "Everything is on the table -- except taxes." Gov. Tim Pawlenty, while pursuing the GOP nomination in 2002, pledged that he would not raise taxes. The state has had deficit after deficit since, even while Minnesota's economy was good.
The deficits have been so bad there hasn't even been enough money in the state transportation budget for 10 percent of work that could have been done with 90 percent federal funding.
The solution to continuing deficits cannot continue to be born on the backs of the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, K-12 students, working families with modest homes, our least fortunate, and those who rely on services from the state Department of Health and Human Services. They are the ones who have, over the past six years, carried more than their share of the burden.
We got into this mess with disproportionate tax cuts from 2000 to 2003. Any logical approach to solving our state's financial problems now must address the effects of those cuts.
GEORGE A. SUNDSTROM of French River is a retired union sheet metal worker.