State Sen. Rod Skoe and Rep. Roger Erickson recently held a town meeting in Park Rapids to discuss Governor Mark Dayton's 2014-15 budget proposal and to obtain citizen input on several legislative issues. Respectful public debate on important issues is a positive process and should be commended.
Sen. Skoe provided an overview of Dayton's proposed budget of $37.892 billion and plans to increase tax revenue by expanding the state sales tax, creating a new top tier income tax and increasing cigarette taxes. Mr. Skoe failed, however, to explain the need for substantial tax increases without also addressing the critical need for spending constraints. He also did not address the major impact these proposed tax increases would have on individuals, small businesses and the states overall economic climate. In this regard, Dayton's proposal would raise revenue from $34.994 billion in the current biennium to $37.920 billion in the 2014-15 for an increase of 8.5 percent. Additionally, Dayton's proposal would increase general fund expenditures from $36.681 billion to $37.892 billion.
Rather than continue the failed "tax and spend" policies which have earned Minnesota the dubious distinction of being a "hostile" business state, it would appear a wiser course of action would be to implement long-term tax and spending reforms designed to eliminate wasteful and/or unnecessary spending and encourage new private sector business investment.
During the public Q&A session Sen. Skoe declined to acknowledge that Minnesota is a "high taxing" state. He stated he was tired of hearing this from constituents and expressed his opinion that Minnesota was about "in the middle of the pack." In a democracy opinions are always welcome, but unfortunately, not always factual.
To assist public and private entities develop fact based tax policy decisions, the U.S. Small Business and Entrepreneurship Counsel, a non-partisan highly respected organization, has developed a comprehensive 'Small Business Tax Index,' which evaluates 16 different tax measures and combines them into one overall "best to worst" state ranking. South Dakota is ranked number one (best) and Minnesota is ranked fiftieth out of fifty states (worst). Several major, well-known, Minnesota companies have elected to create jobs outside the state rather than creating more new jobs inside Minnesota.
Education spending has been and should continue as a high priority for tax dollars. Policy makers, however, need to recognize this important priority will have minimum impact if our children and grandchildren are forced to move out of state for decent jobs. We cannot continue pretending that taxes do not matter.
Your voice is important. Call or write your representative or the Governor's office. Ask them to abandon the historical "tax and spend" philosophy in favor of "common sense" tax reforms and increased constraints on controllable state spending.