By Rep. Shane Mekeland, R-Clear Lake
The state already has taken $1 billion too much from taxpayers and tax increases should not even be part of the discussion as we plan a new two-year state budget.
That is just part of what makes Gov. Tim Walz’s budget proposal so over the top. He wants $3 billion in tax increases over the next two years alone, and $4.7 billion in tax increases for 2022-23. His plan includes raising Minnesota’s gas tax by 20 cents per gallon, a 70-percent increase. That would push Minnesota’s gas tax from 28th nationally to the fourth most expensive.
Here is the kicker: On one hand, the governor wants to raise the price of gas by 20 cents per gallon. But, on the other hand, his proposal would eliminate a law that went into effect a couple of years directing toward roads and bridges the sales tax dollars already being collected on the purchases of auto parts and tires. It defies logic for the governor to propose raising the gas tax to provide more money for roads and bridges, while also wanting to eliminate a stable funding source for those projects.
If the governor thinks the public is eager to pay another 20 cents at the pump, I ask him to get behind a bill I have authored to voluntarily let that happen. My bill (H.F. 2469) would allow an optional tax of 20 cents per gallon to be collected at the pump if the consumer consents. If the consumer wishes to pay the additional tax, the retailer will collect the additional tax and remit it quarterly to the commissioner of revenue, who would then deposit the money into the highway user tax distribution fund.
The bill admittedly is unlikely to gain traction, but the bottom line is the gas tax is extremely regressive in that it hits low-income earners the hardest. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of painful tax and fee increases the governor proposes. How bad is it? The commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget has acknowledged that some of the fees — such as those on assisted living facilities and drug companies — are “aggressive.”
The governor’s plan also includes increases to tab fees, the motor vehicle sales tax, the metro area sales tax, business taxes, and reinstatement of the sick tax, which is set to expire at the end of the year, adding $1 billion to the cost of health care for Minnesotans over the next two years. Those fees on health care will merely be passed down to consumers, contradicting Walz’s promises to lower health care costs for Minnesotans.
Overall, Walz’s budget will make life more expensive for all Minnesota families. With a $1 billion surplus, there is no reason we should be making everyday necessities like gas, groceries, and health care more expensive. He rode a “One Minnesota” slogan to the governor’s office but already is proposing a crushing blow to low- and middle-income earners – especially to the people of Greater Minnesota.
Instead of planning billions more in taxing and spending, we need to set a responsible budget total and even consider the novel concept of leaving the surplus as a cushion to protect us in case revenue continues to diminish as it has in recent months.
Let’s see what the House and Senate majorities propose when they soon unveil their own respective budget proposals.