“No new tax” gremlin rears its ugly head


MPR’s Polinaut reveals that gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert has signed the Taxpayers’ League “no new tax” pledge.  So eager is Rep. Seifert to tout his anti-tax credentials and toady to the Taxpayers’ League that he has signed the same pledge twice within the span of about a month.

Now might be a good time to review the track record of the last eight years of “no new tax” leadership, as documented in a recent Minnesota 2020 report and other sources.  Since 2002:

  • Minnesota employment growth has lagged well behind the national average.

  • The number of road miles in poor and mediocre condition has more than doubled.  Minnesota’s rank among the 50 states in road condition has fallen from 8th to 27th.

  • Real median household income in Minnesota has declined, while national median household income has increased.

  • Growth in average annual pay has been two percent below the national average.

  • Class sizes have increased.  Minnesota’s ranking on pupil-teacher ratios in public schools has fallen from 25th to 37th.

  • Real per capita state and local spending on education has fallen by 5.3%, compared to a 1.0% decline nationally.

  • Minnesota has fallen below the national average in public elementary and secondary school current spending per pupil.

  • Growth in Minnesota Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lagging behind the national growth rate.

The true believers among the “no new tax” crowd will argue that Minnesota’s performance has lagged behind other states only because we have not cut taxes enough.  Don’t be fooled.  Since 2002, Minnesota has cut taxes, charges, and other own-source revenue more than any other state in the nation.  In fact, from FY 2002-03 to FY 2012-13, real per capita state general fund spending is expected to decline by nearly 10 percent after adjusting for shifts and takeovers.  According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, total taxes in Minnesota are “just about average” relative to other states.

With few exceptions, the anti-tax crowd has had their way since 2002.  To the victors goes the accountability.  The anti-taxers rightfully own Minnesota’s disappointing economic performance over the last eight years.

And this is not all they own.  Anti-tax policies have contributed huge state budget deficits, accounting gimmicks that shift costs on to future taxpayers, and spiraling property taxes.

The goal of the state’s chief policymaker should not be to avoid revenue increases at all costs.  That’s the approach we’ve been trying for the last eight years and it’s not working out very well.  Rather, the goal should be to deal with the state’s budget deficit in a way that is least damaging to the state’s economy in the short-term and most conducive to sustained prosperity in the long-term.  In pursuing this goal, all options — including spending reform and prioritization and revenue increases — should be on the table.