Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


Well, it's getting to be that time of year again. The glow of the holidays has worn off and now many Minnesotans are looking out their windows and wondering how quickly they can book a flight to Mexico. Between the ice, the snow, the cold and the conditions of the roads, who can even blame them?

I've long stood by one cure-all for winter's woes. A grilled cheese sandwich and a hot cup of tomato soup warms your soul and gives you the pep in your step you need to get that last bit of ice cleared off the walk — until the plow comes by and erases all your hard work, that is!

Nicholas Rea, Minneapolis


Don't stop at Social Security taxes

"Minnesota, like the federal government, has taxed Social Security benefits for roughly four decades." So states the Star Tribune front-page article "Tax cuts for seniors, at a cost" (Jan. 22). Since eliminating this tax is an issue loudly championed by Republicans right now, it might be instructive to recall some history regarding the taxation of these benefits.

Federal taxation of Social Security benefits began in 1984 as the result of a law signed by President Ronald Reagan the previous year; Minnesota followed that lead in 1985. At the federal level, this action was necessary to help offset the loss of revenue caused by the reduction in the highest income tax rate that went from 73% to 28% during Reagan's time in office. One could genuinely argue that wealthy individuals received a tax cut partially financed by retirees. While this policy received bipartisan support at the time, rather than simply eliminating this tax, perhaps there is another way to make, or keep, America great.

Since the dream of many Republicans is to go back to the way things were done in some mystically perfect past, how about we simply go back to the income tax rates in place before Social Security benefits were taxed? This would allow us to actually address the government's fiscal health (at all levels) and maybe even solve the problem of deficit spending (something that Republicans constantly complain about, except when they can actually do something about it).

As someone who currently receives Social Security retirement payments, I would certainly benefit from a reduction in my state taxes. However, I'm in favor of doing more than just eliminating this tax.

Ken Thielman, Woodbury


During the legislative session, we read daily accounts of what Gov. Tim Walz is proposing for our state. As a retired state employee from two agencies and nearly 39 years of service under my belt, I would like to add a new idea to his plans: common sense.

Instead of sending one-time checks to everyone, cut the state's tax on Social Security. Everyone (else) knows this is a good move that will help those who need it most. Increasing seniors' purchasing ability will help the economy because they will spend the money on things they need to live. This will raise more taxes for you to spend. Win-win.

Instead of creating another state agency, figure out what the ones you already have are doing well and duplicate it. Then, figure out what they are doing wrong, and stop doing it. Until state agency managers stop being afraid of creating conflict — and realize there is no change without it — the status quo will continue. This is not good for our state.

And as long as we're at it, President Joe Biden, can you please stop the ridiculous notion of student loan forgiveness? Everyone knows it's not smart and won't make much of a dent anyway — and I have two kids both still paying off their debt. Instead, reduce the interest on federal student loans to just cover the cost of administering those loans. Why does Uncle Sam need to get 4% to 8% interest off students? This one move would help everyone paying off federal loans and would encourage borrowing for new students without the fear of incurring a never-ending debt load.

Common sense. Try it!

Gloriann McDonald, Stacy, Minn.


I align with Minnesota's DFL Party more times than not. But aspects of Gov. Walz's proposed biennial budget trouble me. Particularly irksome is his wish to charge a first-year car tab fee on the purchase of a new car at 160% of its manufacturer's suggested retail price ("New taxes proposed in Walz budget," Jan. 25). Yet why stop there, even while enjoying a projected $17.5 billion budget surplus?

The Legislature could apply this same approach to both our state income taxes and to our state/local sales taxes. After a hiatus of 50 years, it could usher in a new "Minnesota Miracle" by applying current state income tax rates to 160% of each taxpayer's taxable income, and by charging sales tax at 160% of the actual value of our retail purchases. So, if my annual income is $50,000, Minnesota could tax me as if I earned $80,000. If buy a $50 chair, sales-tax me on a $80 purchase.

State and local tax revenue would increase by 60 percentage points, no public official would ever be blamed for increasing current taxes rates — and think of the budget surpluses we could run. Genius!

Dirk C. VanDerwerker, Brainerd, Minn.


Oh, Gov. Walz, with one hand you give and with the other, you take away. More taxes, really? The billions of dollars in surplus is not enough? When will you and other elected officials understand that the citizens of Minnesota are not your personal ATM? The lack of fiscal accountability in our government is appalling. Your budget priorities show that you are a caring person. But the harsh reality is you can't solve every problem that crosses your desk by just taking more money from your citizens. If you can't show some level of fiscal restraint, you don't deserve to be our governor.

William Dietrick, Minneapolis


Protect our data from everyone

TikTok should not be banned. Concerns about China's use of Americans' data are better addressed with legislation that applies to all Chinese companies without damaging U.S./China relations. Congress should pass a federal data privacy law similar to Europe's General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act. These laws empower individuals to learn what personal information has been collected, correct errors and determine how their data can be collected and used, all of which is enforced with private rights of action and strong government-enforcement tools. Those tools can be used to bring down the hammer on any Chinese company that does not comply. Its applicability to all companies eliminates any basis for China to claim the U.S. is picking a fight.

A federal data privacy law would not only address the risk from TikTok, it would also be good for Americans and our economy. It is challenging for U.S. businesses to comply with an inconsistent, patchwork of state and international privacy laws that continue to grow. This makes it hard for entrepreneurs to develop and commercialize compliant new products because they cannot afford privacy expertise. Individuals would win here because such legislation would put them in control of what data is collected, how it can be used and when it must be deleted.

Congress should use the demands to ban TikTok to marshal the votes for a solution that helps America in many ways, rather than voting for a ban on just one Chinese company that is sure to damage U.S./China relations.

Steve Hoge, Minnetonka

The writer is a semiretired lawyer specializing in data privacy.