Friday, January 23, 2009

Solve our state $5 billion budget deficit by raising taxes? That's $1,000 per man, woman and child.

Looking at and talking to people about our projected state $5 billion budget deficit will be an enormous challenge. The simple math says it would mean raising taxes $1,000 per man, woman and child to eliminate it for this biennium, 2009-10. And then it's projected to be another $4.6 billion for the 2011-12 biennium. Or about $900 per person all over again. For the average family would mean a tax increase of $4,000 per family or a 30% increase in the average family's state tax bill.

That's an enormous amount of money and shows how our state expenditures have gotten out of control. We were expecting a $950 million deficit even before the economy went into a deep recession and sent it to nearly $5 billion.

Of course, there's no talk of just raising taxes but from conversations with DFL legislators, there's an expectation there will or should be a tax increase.

I think that would be a mistake. For one, any tax increase will be passed along to individuals and families in one form or another; a bad idea during a recession. Second, government is doing far more than its capable of handling effectively. And third, we need to disabuse ourselves of the idea that government is the solution to all our societal problems. Currently, the thinking is -- there's a problem let's have government spend more money to solve it.

What needs to be done is change the way the state/government does business and scale back expectations. Government needs to do things differently and smarter. Instead of looking to government to solve social problems other institutions and groups in society need to step into the gap. That can and I believe will happen but not immediately because people have become conditioned to looking to government to do it.

That has to change and I believe will change whatever happens with our state budget deficit this session. That will be painful and difficult but necessary and in the long run in the best interest of Minnesotans.

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