A proposal to allow Minnesota taxpayers to check off a box on their income tax return and make an extra payment for social spending strikes us as a bad idea.
The proposal, by Rep. Dan Dorman, a Republican from Albert Lea, and Sen. Dick Day, a Republican from Owatonna, would provide an option for those who want to raise more tax revenue for K-12 education, health care, early childhood and family education, higher education and state parks. It's a clever move to thwart the complaints of citizens who say those areas are being decimated by Gov. Tim Pawlenty's refusal to raise taxes in the face of a severe stage budget shortage.
It is clever, yes, but also dangerous. For starters, the proposal goes against the long-held American ideal that there are certain shared obligations of citizenship. Chief among those is to provide services that enhance society at large -- such as educating people and keeping them healthy. All taxpayers, not just those who check off a box on their tax return, should support those services at an appropriate level. We can disagree as individuals on what that level might be, but all of society should contribute to that level.
Secondly, we don't like the long view of Dorman's proposal and others that might follow: a state government funded by taxpayers al a carte. We'll designate our tax dollars only for the programs we like, you'll do likewise, and so will the person down the block. Before long, the state budget is a jigsaw puzzle of special interests and fiefdoms. And again, the ultimate result will be to undermine our collective obligation to society.
The state's current budget crisis is not a time to be playing clever games that will only serve to weaken what ties us together as Minnesotans. We urge Dorman and Day to drop their checkoff proposals and work toward a more positive vision of Minnesota.
--Post-Bulletin of Rochester
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