I was disappointed to read Lori Sturdevant’s recent column criticizing a common-sense, bipartisan plan to fully eliminate the unfair tax on Social Security benefits in Minnesota (“Math doesn’t add up on senior tax cut,” Nov. 25). I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised — members of the Star Tribune Editorial Board have come out time and again against tax relief for Minnesotans, including one editorial that called eliminating taxes on Minnesota veteran pensions “wasteful.” But I digress.
The reason eliminating taxes on Social Security is popular among many lawmakers is because it’s simply common sense. Our senior citizens worked their entire lives as productive members of society, and by living in Minnesota they’ve already paid plenty to their state government. Even with the meager 15 percent exemption, seniors are still being double taxed on 85 percent of their Social Security payments.
For the year 2018, Kiplinger ranked Minnesota No. 1 in its report of the Least Tax Friendly State in the U.S. It also listed Minnesota as one of the worst states for retirement, noting: “The Land of 10,000 Lakes is a hard place for retirees to stay afloat. Above-average living expenses and below-average incomes can equate to imbalanced budgets in retirement. Plus, the tax situation adds an extra burden. One of the 10 Worst States for Taxes on Retirees, Minnesota taxes Social Security benefits to the same extent as the federal government.”
Yet Sturdevant believes the continued confiscation of potential senior citizens’ income is quite all right as it could then be spent on more state government programs — with the not-so-subtle insinuation that government will spend your money better than you can.
In 2017, facing another substantial budget surplus, the Minnesota Legislature rejected this spend-your-way-into-prosperity hyperbole and took a good first step toward giving senior citizens on Social Security some tax relief. Under the new law, nearly 284,000 senior citizen tax returns received tax reductions, and 72,000 of those no longer pay state income tax on their benefits.
Remember, the reason we want to give senior citizens tax relief is because they, along with hundreds of thousands of other hardworking Minnesotans, have paid too much to their state government. Plus, it’s their money! They earned it by working and paying taxes their entire lives.
Believe it or not, there are times when lawmakers make decisions because it’s the right thing to do. Providing seniors with Social Security tax relief in 2017 was one of those instances. I hope we can continue that work as we look ahead to the 2019 session. Many of my new Democratic colleagues campaigned on eliminating Social Security taxes. I hope they will follow the example set by House Republicans and continue the bipartisan effort to follow through.
With a substantial budget surplus likely to be announced next week, there’s simply no excuse not to. If members of our new House majority want to fulfill their campaign promises of fully eliminating the tax on Social Security benefits next year, Republicans stand ready to help achieve this goal.
Greg Davids, R-Preston, is the chair of the taxes committee in the Minnesota House.