L ast week, the Star Tribune Editorial Board went to great lengths to justify Minnesota’s seventh-highest tax burden in the nation — a debatable ranking in the first place, especially since Kiplinger just ranked the state as having the No. 1 tax burden. The conclusion the board expects you to glean from the commentary is that Republican appeals for lower taxes and spending restraint are unnecessary (“A fact check on the price of government,” Oct. 11). Unfortunately, the argument misses the forest for the trees.
Republicans think government should be measured by how well it delivers on the things it is supposed to do; spending is only part of the equation. Even the most frugal Minnesotan can get behind good government spending on things like public safety, roads, child welfare and health care for the poor and elderly. But the examples of waste and incompetence keep piling up. A few examples from the past year:
• The Office of Health Facility Complaints failed to investigate thousands of elder-abuse complaints, throwing piles of complaints in the trash and leaving our most vulnerable seniors in danger.
• MNIT, the state’s information technology agency, cost taxpayers half a billion dollars by failing to build software it said would be done more than two years ago.
• The Department of Public Safety is overcharging drivers for car tabs and sending people the wrong vehicle titles, despite spending more than $100 million on new software.
• Students of color still face one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation, and it hasn’t budged, despite the state’s spending 65 percent more on education than 15 years ago.
• The Department of Human Services undercharged MinnesotaCare subscribers for their premiums, then failed to collect $30 million in unpaid debt.
• Blatant fraud in child-care assistance programs is a constant problem, with scammers pocketing up to $100 million a year.
When hundreds of millions of dollars are being wasted without repercussions, Republicans say it’s time to stop feeding the beast.
And another thing: Some of the biggest personal problems we face are the direct result of government overregulation.
Homeownership is out of reach for young Minnesotans because government regulations added 30 percent to the cost of a home in just five years. New homes now cost an average of $17,000 more, making it nearly impossible to find a decent starter home for an affordable price.
Minnesota’s child-care costs are the third-highest in the nation, and we’re facing a dire child-care shortage in greater Minnesota. This means parents, most often moms, are left with fewer options if they want to strike a balance between continuing their careers and spending time with their kids. Child-care providers say they’re leaving the industry in droves because of government overregulation and ridiculous citations, like having prickly grass in the backyard. (Yes, that really happened.)
When it comes to health care, families are facing unprecedented anxiety about the cost and availability of care since Obamacare led to skyrocketing premiums, to families losing their doctors and to the near-collapse of the individual market. Republicans saved it from imploding, but it will take years and much more work to get back the nation-leading health care system we had before.
The true cost of government is measured not only in dollars, but also in missed opportunities. The Editorial Board’s arguments are made in a vacuum, considering only the dollar figure we each see on our income tax forms each year. Minnesotans are smarter than that.
Republicans work hard to make government effective and efficient because it’s a key component of our ability to live productive, meaningful and happy lives. Good government is a worthy goal. If you believe that, we can work together. Join us.
Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.