- …Courts and the rule of law are essential not just for public safety but also for conflict resolution and contract enforcement for businesses.
- Delays and deteriorating roads — due to the state's fast-growing congestion and crumbling transportation infrastructure — build higher costs into the prices of products produced or sold here.
- Our public schools are being forced, in effect, to loan money to state government. Students at Minnesota's two-year colleges pay the third-highest tuition and fees of all 50 states. And Minnesota faces a growing achievement gap between white and nonwhite, and between affluent and poor households. These trends represent an erosion of Minnesota's educational advantage, the bedrock of our economic success.
Finally, the letter clearly lays out reforms that could help Minnesota work towards a balanced, stable means of supporting those structures:
Cut more judiciously, vigorously pursue government redesign to improve efficiency, and raise taxes by as much as $1 billion a year.
…The first and best option should be to restore personal income tax rates closer to 1999 levels. Nationally, those fortunate to be at the top of the income ladder are enjoying a greater share of income and wealth than they've had in almost a century. Wealthy households actually pay a smaller proportion of their incomes in state and local taxes than any other income group.
Substantial increased revenues also could come from broadening the sales tax base, which currently exempts services and clothing, or by repealing other tax breaks. By taxing more-diverse items in the growing service economy, the overall rates could actually be lowered, and tax credits or thresholds could be employed to reduce any disproportionate impact on low-income consumers. Politically, it might help to adopt these changes in stages or as temporary rate increases.
The letter is relevant not only for its compelling examples of well-run government increasing the profitiblity of local businesses and for its specific (and familiar) ways to raise additional revenues, but for its overall pragmatic look at what Minnesotans value in their state and how they intend to act on and support those needs!
[Original MN Op-Ed by Charlie Quimby and Dane Smith – Charlie Quimby is a former small-business owner and a communications fellow for Growth & Justice, a nonprofit research organization that advocates for greater economic equality. Dane Smith is president of the group.]