The big news this week, of course, is that the plans to raise tax rates aren’t going to see the light of day. Great. Minnesota is already a high-tax state, to the peril of our economy and political culture.
Congratulations to Governor Pawlenty for doing a great impersonation of President George H.W. Bush, and doing him one better. Bush famously said “Read my lips: No new taxes,” and then … raised taxes.
The governor has once gone back on that pledge, trying to call an increase in cigarette taxes a “fee” rather than a tax. But he has been solid in keeping marginal income tax rates from soaring.
It looks like much of the balancing will be done, once again, through gimmicks (delaying payments) and magic (federal “stimulus” money) rather than a reasoned, thoughtful consideration of what the state should do and what it should not. In the business world, many companies are deciding what they should do, what they shouldn’t do, and simply discarding tasks that aren’t central to their success. Would that government does the same. Then again, we’re talking about politics here, not business.
I feel sorry-OK, almost sorry-for local officials, who may see reduced money coming from the state capitol in the new fiscal year. Currently, however, state government does too much to subsidize local government: The people who spend the money at the local level don’t face full political accountability for their actions, since someone else (the Legislature and governor) is making the decisions on the revenue side.
One unfortunate outcome of the session is that the police can now stop people simply for not wearing a seatbelt. (Should you wear one? Yes. Should government require it? No.) DFL Rep. Kim Norton of Rochester, sponsored the bill and defended it this way: “Our law enforcement officers are tired of going to an accident and having to clean up the mess that’s left there, the heartbreaking results of people that are ejected from their cars and killed needlessly.”
Here’s a tip for both Rep. Norton and would-be law enforcement officers: If you’re upset about “mess” in this life, don’t go into law enforcement! Rep. Norton’s argument stands “public service” on its head, compelling us to do something for the benefit of our “public servants.”