Once again, Tom Horner does a nice job of advocating for the wealthiest Minnesotans (“Assessing ‘tax the rich’ and how Minnesota can meet its needs,” Opinion Exchange, Jan. 3). His premise is that high-income Minnesotans are taxed at a higher rate than other Minnesotans and that higher consumption taxes and other non-income taxes will be necessary to meet the future revenue needs of Minnesota government.
Horner ignores the fact that the top 10 percent of earners in Minnesota face a lower overall state and local tax burden than other Minnesotans. Minnesota Department of Revenue figures show that the top 10 percent of Minnesota earners have a total Minnesota tax burden of 10.5 percent when including state and local sales, property and other taxes. By comparison, the middle-income groups in Minnesota have a state and local tax burden of more than 12 percent. (See Table 1-5 on page 14 of the department’s 2015 Tax Incidence Study for details — http://tinyurl.com/hho4s92.)
So, Minnesota does not have the “tax the rich” approach claimed by Horner. The recent income tax increase on top earners may have increased the fairness of tax collection in Minnesota, but there’s no basis for claiming that Minnesota is “soaking” the rich. Building on this false premise, Horner advocates that more state and local government revenue come from consumption taxes. But that would unfairly push more of the tax burden on middle- and low-income taxpayers in the state. Minnesota ranks high for tax fairness, according to a study by the Institute on Taxation and Public Policy, because it relies more on progressive income taxes than regressive consumption taxes. (See http://tinyurl.com/hjw6hes.) Horner would seemingly have us adopt the model of states like Texas, Florida and Washington that unfairly push consumption taxes on the backs of the poorest citizens, who end up paying proportionally up to twice as much of their incomes in taxes as the 1 percent in those states.
Let’s protect and increase tax fairness in Minnesota, not transfer tax burdens from the rich to the poor and middle class.
Joshua Schneck, St. Louis Park
If you want to know about influence, here’s your lesson
I don’t think that we will see a much clearer report on the influence of corporate wealth on our democratic processes than the Jan. 3 story about the contributions of medical-device companies to the campaigns of U.S. Sens. Amy Kobluchar and Al Franken and U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen (“Device tax relief a pricey victory”). Despite Minnesota’s support for the Affordable Care Act, these two Democratic senators and a Republican representative voted to rescind its financial support. Political contributions of between $55,000 and $97,000 for the three was all it took to save Medtronic $135 million in taxes in fiscal year 2015, although the company did have to spend $10 million on lobbying in 2013 and 2014. The story reports that the tax had little effect on corporate profits.
What could be worse? Well, in Minnesota, due to legislative inaction, political contributions can be made secretly, so that we cannot even connect the dots.
George Beck, St. Louis Park
The writer is a former chair of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.
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I have generally been satisfied with our two senators, but I just wrote them both to express my dismay and disappointment in their support for the suspension of the medical-device tax, a suspension that I am certain will end up being permanent and with no replacement.
I am no big fan of the ACA — another piece of horrible sausagemaking that our fine government created — yet it is the law of the land, and the device tax was an important piece of its support. The almost incomprehensible amount of whining and lobbying from this group should have been embarrassing for all concerned. Instead, it was successful.
As a Minnesotan, I am aware of the number of device companies here and that our senators felt pressure to support them. It has always been my understanding, however, that there were only 100 senators to 435 representatives because senators were supposed to consider larger goals. If supporting a national health care act — no matter how poorly designed it is — isn’t a higher goal, I’m not sure what is.
I’m quite ashamed of them both and doubt that I will be able to support either of them going forward.
D. Roger Pederson, Minneapolis
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Why would you credit Klobuchar and Franken for repealing the medical-device tax when they initiated the tax by voting for Obamacare?
Paulsen has led the effort and passed seven bills in the House since 2012 for repeal and didn’t vote it in the first place. Perhaps he rates a picture, not they.
Elsa Carpenter, Plymouth
One of these examples is not exactly like the others
In her Jan. 3 column (“Bringing up the Nazis doesn’t help fight hateful words”), Lori Sturdevant observed that some points of national shame were “the internment of Japanese-Americans in 1942, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and … the Minnesota expulsion of the Dakota people in 1862.” In a few brief but very violent weeks in 1862, the Dakota killed 650 whites — men, women and children. Up to 100 Dakota warriors were killed, but probably no women or children. In response to this, the whites of course intensely hated the Dakota, and of course the Dakota had just demonstrated their intense hatred of the whites. As a consequence, the two people had to be separated by a great enough distance so they could not get at one another, continuing the killing. And it would indeed have continued if that were not done, with a high probability that hundreds of Dakota would have been killed. So the Dakota were sent to a reservation in Dakota Territory. Sometimes, there are no good options to choose from, and this was one of those times. So it is totally unfair and inappropriate to bill the expulsion of the Dakota as a point of national shame.
Curtis Dahlin, Roseville
Claude and Rick, we’ll miss you
Sad day for me. No “Withering Glance,” which is the first thing I read in the Sunday Star Tribune. (“One last Glance, and exit stage left,” Dec. 27).
I will miss you, Rick Nelson and Claude Peck. I have so enjoyed your comments, and have laughed out loud many times. I lived in Minneapolis for many years.
My hope for you both and your loved ones is success and happiness. Thank you for your fun outlook on life and many thoughtful comments.
Wendy Dunn, Watertown, S.D.