Is this the example Minnesota wants to follow?
The Denver Post reports on the problems the “tax-averse” conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs is facing among major budget shortfalls. Perhaps we Minnesotans need to take a closer look at the example being set out west. This race to the bottom could soon come to our state if our leaders continue to subscribe to the “no new taxes” orthodoxy.
The situation in Colorado clearly demonstrates the fallacy promoted by anti-tax zealots that cutting public funding incentives the private sector and leads to a higher quality of life. Yet the opposite rings true, and Minnesotans should be wary. Budget cuts of this nature have far-reaching consequences. A lack of revenue does not only affect pampered bureaucrats feeding on the government payroll; these cuts wipe out necessities. The most egregious example is the lack of respect for education. In Minnesota, as in Colorado Springs, communities are forced to cut school schedules and shut down community programs.
The cuts also include numerous public services most people take for granted. Indeed, these are the kind of services citizens of a wealthy, prosperous nation should be able to take for granted. Thus, urban residents can now look forward to the starry nights generally reserved for their rural brethren. Colorado Springs has shut off one-third of the city’s streetlights. Darkness might not be too much of an issue though: the city will lay off firefighters and cease to hire for new positions and parks have stopped watering lawns and collecting garbage. Instead, signs have been placed advising visitors to “to pack out their own litter.”
Libertarian approaches to refuse collection meet with little success. I can cite the example of Seoul, Korea from my personal experience. South Korea has a lower tax rate than the United States, and garbage collection is not covered. Instead, anyone who wishes to dispose of household waste must buy specialty garbage bags. These cost anywhere from $1-$10 each. While people obviously buy these for their own homes, public areas are a different story. Any divot in the ground, garden ledge, or forked tree branch becomes the home for empty cigarette packets and Starbucks cups. Litter covers Seoul’s curbs and sidewalks, and there is little money to clear it.
The issue of dead, filthy parks has further economic implications. Not only do we Minnesotans love our parks and outdoor areas, but they are a major source of revenue for the state. Looking back to the Colorado example, tourism officials’ problems are exacerbated as visitors opt to travel to neighboring states. Locally, $11 billion dollars are pumped into the state from outsider visitors.
Time and again, we see quality of life erode as anti-tax hysteria takes hold. Minnesota has already begun a slide toward mediocrity as the current administration cuts public spending. Minnesotans must decide if we’re satisfied with the eradication of basic services, or if we wish to maintain a certain level of pride in living in functioning communities.