Note to Pawlenty and Minnesota Republicans: Pro-tax cuts = anti-Minnesota.

Posted by admin
Jun 02 2006

Okay, here’s the ‘sitch:

State falls to 16th in tax ranking (Minneapolis Star-Tribune):

Minnesota has tumbled to 16th place among the states in total state and local taxes as a portion of income, its lowest ranking since at least 1958, according to a preliminary summary of the latest U.S. Census data released by the Minnesota Taxpayers Association.

Minnesota for three decades has almost always been in the top 10 in most bottom-line measures of tax burden. The drop from eighth place in 2000 to 16th in 2004 is bound to make waves in a crucial election year.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the leader of a conservative interest group hailed the new ranking as a major achievement by a fiscally conservative Republican administration.

Leaders of liberal interest groups say the tax decline already has been accompanied by shabbier public services, more economic inequality and lower rankings on some key quality-of-life indicators.

“This is just great news, a very big deal,” said David Strom, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, an aggressive anti-tax advocacy group that got Pawlenty to sign a no-tax-increase pledge when he ran in 2002. The League has no connection to the Taxpayers Association, a nonpartisan research organization founded in 1926.

“When we Republicans took control of the House in 1998, Speaker Steve Sviggum and I used as a benchmark goal getting out of the top 10,” Pawlenty said. “These numbers bounce around every year but this is great progress and it sends a good signal to those who might want to invest in our state.”

Sounds great, eh?

Well, that one part, mentioning the decline in public services and our general quality of life, should give everyone some pause for reflection.

Are our roads better? Not by the number of potholes I have to avoid when driving on I-94 through downtown Minneapolis. Are our streets safer? Not if I take into consideration that Michelle was held up at her bus stop, our home was burglarized, teenagers holding large parties at a house down our street only to end in gunshots. All that occurred in a six-month period. Oh, I forgot to add the drug deal I witnessed across from my home along with the other rash of similar burglaries, hold-ups and party-busts that have also taken place during that time, too.

Are our schools better? Not if it has meant yet another year of layoffs for Minneapolis teachers. Resources have been stretched so thin that the district is barely holding itself together. I have observed the decline in the quality of education personally and very up close. Four years ago, when our schools were much better, I witnessed that while our resources were still modest, we could still teach, maintain a sound, respectful learning environment, and offer a sense of hope and opportunity for our students. Today, however, I fear we may be losing that as our kids witness meager materials, less-than-acceptable time with teachers who are finding themselves with thirty-five or more students each hour — a number that effectively limits the opportunity for teachers to offer a truly thought-provoking, engaging, and intellectually-stimulating education that will allow their students to leave as capable thinkers and actors who can positively impact their community.

Ask yourselves these questions and many more: Is our system of health care better? Ask anyone who lost their job or found themselves priced-out of their health plan. Has public transit improved? Not if cuts in bus routes and hikes in fares are any indication. Has our state’s environment become cleaner? Think about those increased number of air pollution alerts in recent years and judge for yourself. Again, ask these questions and more. Do it between now and November. Then figure out for yourselves whether we should really care if our state ranks first, sixteenth, or last in tax rates if it means a living in a state that will grow increasingly nasty, brutish and short for more and more people.

Tax cuts are not “progress,” as Pawlenty put it, if it means that our civil society regresses as a result of those cuts. My vote this November will go to those who support all the residents of this state, not simply the selfish and greedy who want to live in their own private fiefdoms.

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