This is short so maybe even people who haven’t had time to sort out what’s happening with our state’s priorities will have time to understand a simple example.
Take a look at proposals for the state’s Health and Human Services budget. Passage of the HHS omnibus bill which reduces the budget by $1.6 billion dollars would result in lost health care benefits for approximately 138,000 of Minnesota’s most needy citizens, including many children. The GOP contends it must do this to balance the state’s budget.
Governor Mark Dayton’s plan would raise nearly $2.9 billion in overall state revenues by increasing tax rates on the top 5% of Minnesota’s income earners. This is part of Dayton’s plan to balance the state’s budget and it doesn’t involve cutting essential services to our neediest citizens.
Conservatives and the misguided self-righteous will argue that the problems of the unfortunate should not be solved at the cost of the fortunate. Ok, whatever…keep moral questions out of this. Look at facts.
Right now in Minnesota the top 5% of income earners pay a smaller percentage of their overall income in taxes than the rest of Minnesota’s tax payers. Minnesota has an increasingly regressive tax system as the effective tax rate for top earners continues to decrease. These are really rather simple numbers to understand, but it seems that no one is taking time to think it through.
Summaries of our tax situation can be found at the Institute on Taxation and Policy and here is a handy summary in a chart from two years ago. A more thorough and recent report is here at Minnesota 2020.
In essence, the less-fortunate are paying a larger percentage of their income in taxes, shouldn’t they expect more from it? That’s one way to look at it. But why would you support a tax policy that gives a break to the wealthiest when you must cut essential services for the neediest to do so?
The GOP keeps telling us we need to live within our means. Very clearly and plainly they are telling us that tax cuts for the wealthy are more important to them than the welfare of the neediest. Is that the kind of priority that we value in our society? As long as the GOP thinks unsustainable tax cuts are “within our means” they are showing exactly what priorities Republicans value.
All Mark Dayton is proposing is tax fairness. He is trying to eliminate only some of the regressive qualities of our tax system and get the wealthiest to pay the same proportion of their income in taxes that the poorest pay. What is wrong with that?
(NB These numbers will move around some if the GOP ever agrees to negotiate, something they have so far refused to do. The priorities matter and are clearly illustrated by this comparison.)