If you'd like to pay more taxes, Rep. Peggy Scott has a bill for you.
She calls it the "I'm not taxed enough already" bill.
The Andover Republican, who does think she's taxed enough already, says the measure would allow Minnesotans to voluntarily pony up more for the general fund via their state income tax forms.
"I hear over and over, especially down here at the Capitol, that people aren't taxed enough, that we have to raise revenues to get out of our budget deficit," said Scott. "So this is people's opportunity to voluntarily pay more taxes."
She acknowledges the proposal, awaiting a hearing in the House, is meant to send a message. In an e-mail to constituents this month, Scott wrote: "It will let them voluntarily pay more -- or show the hypocrisy of this vocal minority."
On her House website, she reports that Virginia and Arkansas had established such funds and that Arkansas' brought in $2,086 from 56 people from 2001-05.
University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs wonders whether we need a law to prove we don't like taxes.
"I don't know anyone who likes paying taxes; you do it because you have to, or you see a specific thing that really needs to be supported," he said, noting polls have shown that people are much more amenable to paying to support particular causes. "The point is, a proposal of taxing more for a general vague outcome is unlikely to find much support, and would probably produce just the outcome the representative was looking for."
Taxpayers have had the option of contributing to the Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Fund via tax checkoff for the past 30 years; the checkoff raised $1.1 million for tax year 2008. Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, also has proposed a "homeless prevention and food shelf'" checkoff to add to Minnesota tax forms.
The nongame checkoff total was down about 8.5 percent from tax year 2007, however, and adding checkoffs may not increase total revenue but may dilute allegiances, said Lori Naumann, information officer for the Nongame Wildlife Program.
Still, Scott said her action has drawn a positive reception from constituents in her district, which includes Andover and Ham Lake.
"Those that want to increase taxes, if they want to pay more, that's fine. Give them an opportunity to pay more," said Harland Wyvell, of Coon Rapids, chairman of Senate District 49 Republicans. "I think it's pointing out how silly some of those people are about increasing taxes."
But Bill Usher, a state DFL director and Ham Lake resident, called the bill "grandstanding."
"Minnesota is suffering because of Governor Pawlenty's no-new-taxes philosophy, and Peggy Scott has marched lockstep with his beliefs," he said. "It's a way to get her antitax message out there; instead, she should be worrying about how to improve the lives of people in the area."
There's nothing now to prevent Minnesotans -- or anyone else -- from writing a check to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, Jacobs noted.
But he said he appreciates Scott's willingness to think outside the box.
"I'm always appreciative of creative ideas," he said. "The fiscal challenge we have in this state and around the country is so severe we really need to go back and question our most fundamental assumptions. In general, I think it's great: Bring it on. It's better to look at it than to have your head stuck in the sand, because that's not working."
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo.
Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409