Tax-cutting is right up there with Mom and apple pie on the list of subjects politicians want to enthusiastically support.
And cutting taxes is a lot easier to do when the state is experiencing surpluses rather than deficits. So the good economic times of recent years have certainly greased the skids for the Minnesota Legislature to make some progress in cutting Minnesota's considerable tax burden.
There was plenty of room for improvement as Minnesota had been stuck with the unenviable label of "Land of 10,000 taxes" by many disgruntled citizens. The critics of Minnesota's high taxes had every right to complain. In tax category after tax category our state was at or near the top of the list when it came to high taxation.
At long last, the Legislature started to chip away at the problem with a series of permanent tax cuts and rebates.
Sen. Roger Moe said last week that tax cuts of more than $3.5 billion have been enacted by the Legislature since 1997. And this year more tax cuts and rebates should be on the way since the state has a $1.8 billion projected surplus.
The result of this tax reduction is that Minnesota dropped from fifth in 1996 to 10th this year on a list that reflects state-local taxes as a percentage of income. Those figures were compiled by the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C., organization. When federal taxes were included in the study, Minnesota dropped from third overall to 13th from 1999 to 2000.
While credit should be given to lawmakers for the progress they've made, House Speaker Steve Sviggum correctly points out that Minnesota is still ranked way too high in measurements of income tax collections and property taxes on rental units and commercial-industrial property.
To what extent taxes can safely be cut this year is part of the ongoing dispute among Gov. Jesse Ventura, the state Senate and the state House. House leaders are urging greater tax reductions be made while Ventura and the Senate argue it's time to invest in certain state programs and keep a monetary reserve in case the economy takes a downswing.
On the theory that legislators respond better to compliments than criticism, it might be wise for citizens to praise the Legislature's recent tax-cutting and encourage lawmakers to keep up the good work.
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