Letters to the Editor
The people of Minnesota voted to make the current Legislature Republican and I honor that choice. A simple majority of them also voted for Governor Dayton, who supported budget plans with a mix of cuts and tax increases.
Now, a very recent poll in the Star-Tribune indicated 63 percent of those responding want a Dayton-like compromise and 27 percent agree with a cuts-only budget as the Republicans have proposed, apparently with no room for compromise. In other words, by a 2-1 margin Minnesotans favor a compromise that would curtail a frankly childish shutdown of state government. It's important to note who has been more willing to make the compromises that the electorate favor. Dayton has never asked that 98 percent of Minnesotans pay any new taxes, just the wealthiest 2 percent. At first he asked for a 5 percent increase in the taxes for a couple making more than $300,000 dollars a year and a single person earning $180,000. To move closer to the Republicans, he cut the increase from 5 to about 2 percent. Recently he went along with more Republican wishes to postpone repaying school districts $1.8 billion and to recover the remaining gap in the $5.1 billion deficit with $1.8 billion in spending cuts and $1.8 billion in additional tax revenues from the same 2 percent mentioned above.
The objections to the governor's compromises basically add up to "no new taxes," which clearly means shifting the burden to localities and property taxes, just as it has meant for the past eight years. This passing the buck leads to a serious inequity because local property values are far from equitable from community to community. In Edina they are certainly not, for instance, having to cut close to the percentage of teachers as they are in other school districts around the state. Furthermore, the cuts-only approach will appreciably slice into overall education funding and wipe out 20 percent of the already badly depleted higher education budget, again increase college tuition, throw more than 100,000 Minnesotans off their health insurance, and even threaten to close some rural hospitals and nursing homes.
When it's all boiled down, the new legislators are being called upon to govern in the interests of 98 percent of Minnesotans and not just the wealthiest 2 percent. We've already had a decade of trickle-down economics with huge tax cuts for the wealthiest in America. At the same time real wages for American workers from 2000-09 rose only 4.5 percent over all of that time, when from the years 1929-39 they rose a little over 5 percent, smack in the middle of the Great Depression. The results of tax cuts for the richest have been anything but the halcyon economic times that so much more personal income for the wealthiest is supposed to create for the rest of us.
Greg Van Hee