Well, the bittersweet news is out. Minnesota is no longer in the “Top 10” of tax burdened states. But, I urge you to hold your applause. As the old saying goes: “be careful what you ask for…it might come true.” And that’s what has me uptight. As a proud third generation Minnesotan, I am alarmed, resentful, and concerned about the agenda drawn by these low tax/no tax folks. Why? Quite simply, they are stealing MY state. OUR state. The one we have grown to love and respect. And, I deeply resent it. Nor, will I let them do it without a fight.
Opinion: My Minnesota
I am not a politician, an editorial writer, nor do I have any “agenda” in writing this. I am just communicating an ordinary citizen’s viewpoint on the activities of our governing officials these past few years…and the ramifications of their actions, and why I hope you will care too.
Now, let me tell you briefly about MY Minnesota. First, it is the state that gave me a terrific education in the public schools and an affordable state University. It gave my father wonderful economic opportunity in a tolerant environment. It gave my children a fabulous family place to put down roots. It gives my grandchildren a lovely place to grow. It has been governed for the most part, up to now, by progressive, enlightened men and women of both parties whose allegiance has been to mainstream Minnesotans rather than a variety of special interest groups.
MY Minnesota has always led the nation in a healthy citizenry. I used to lead the nation in rates of graduation. It is high in longevity. It is always considered (in actual polls) one of the nation’s most desirable places to live, with clean water, air and beautiful venues. It used to be among the healthiest economies in the country, with low rates of unemployment and a diverse economy (proof again that high taxes do NOT dissuade business from locating here). Indeed it is highly inventive and resourceful (probably because of our educated and skilled workforce). It has a history of having enlightened and progressive leaders – of BOTH parties. And, I am not ready to turn over MY Minnesota to small, uncaring, special interest groups – at least not without trying to defend MY Minnesota. OUR Minnesota.
But if I have learned anything from life (I am a 74 year old retired ad agency owner), I have learned you can not run any vital public or private organization “on the cheap”. In the end it will come back and bite you – and correcting deficiencies are always more expensive than preventing them. Simple inflation proves this. Exacerbating this is the fact our state now faces greater challenges than any time in our history. Just to mention two: first we are no longer a homogeneous state, as we were when I was young – and diversity presents new challenges, new stresses, and new agendas. Secondly, the world is far different today, and the linchpin to a successful future (to compete in this new world) will be education. That is where we have excelled in the past; and where I now fear we will falter. While reasonable funds have been appropriated, but much of this new finding will in the end have to come from property taxes – a regressive, limited, and less desirable source than other revenues.
Yes, it is nice to crow about reduced taxes…but eventually this will catch up with us in the form of poor roads, ineffective government services, deteriorating state parks (consider the effect on tourism), and inadequate infrastructure (the key to retaining and recruiting new businesses). And so it has, as the I35 bridge collapse so dramatically attests to. Additionally, the Governor has opted to create considerable funding through debt; and that not only burdens future generations, but adds significant interest charges to our state budget. He will be long gone by then; but his legacy will remain for others to cope with. That seems to be the plan of low tax/no tax groups: starve the government of viable funds…let services deteriorate…then complain of government’s inefficiency. It is a self fulfilling, self inflicted dynamic.
So, in descending order of “first of the worst”, I put the Governor. His “no-tax” pledge should have been an affront to every mainstream Minnesotan in MY state. To become beholden to a small and disgraceful group of anti-tax ideologues does the people of MY state such an injustice it is hard to describe. They do not run this state. They have lessened interest in either making it better, or even preserving that which makes MY state so wonderful. They seem to me to be incredibly uncaring – especially when it comes to properly maintaining our roads and bridges, health care, education, the environment, or investing for my children and grandchildren who expect me to fight for their legacy. So, to the Governor goes top prize for bad behavior.
Next in line are those legislators (of either party) who are beholden to narrow special interest groups who advocate less taxes and/or no taxes – especially for those most able to pay. The sad part of this scenario is that while they are ruining MY Minnesota, they are also eroding THEIR Minnesota as well. I always thought we taught as young not to “foul one’s nest.” Well, apparently the power of greed and politics trumps that.
History tells us the “legacy” of an administration is generally judged years after that group of stewards have left the scene. We have heard on occasion that should we lose the Twins, we could turn into a “cold Omaha”. Clearly, the legacy of this administration will be that they tried to turn MY Minnesota into a “cold Mississippi”!
But…there is on other notable achievement our state is recognized for: we have the absolute highest voter turnout in the country. Let us all hope it expresses itself clearly in the next election.