Education victim of tax cuts
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 11, 2001
It took a long time, but whether the result of this year’s legislative session was worth waiting for is doubtful indeed.
Wednesday, July 11, 2001
It took a long time, but whether the result of this year’s legislative session was worth waiting for is doubtful indeed. Lawmakers bickered their way to what certainly will be looked back on as a landmark endorsement for enjoying the moment at the expense of the future.
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Minnesotans can celebrate a remarkable array of rebates and tax cuts that will certainly mean money in their pockets as soon as this summer. Taxes on homes are going down (especially for the wealthy), taxes on vacation property are going down, taxes on ag land and farm homes are going down and, for those who can’t enjoy any of those tax decreases, the annual state sales tax rebate – $280 per taxpayer on average – is in the mail.
At the same time, state college tuition is going up, University of Minnesota tuition is going up and unemployment among K-12 educators is going up. In short, Minnesota’s status as a leader in education is going down – like a rock.
Some of the property tax reductions the Legislature and Gov. Jesse Ventura enacted this year make sense. Ag land tax relief, in particular, was long overdue. Other reductions are questionable and some are simply ridiculous, notably a 10 percent cut in vacation property taxes. Vacation homes and cabins are a luxury and the boom in their construction and sales in past years demonstrates that while owners might not like paying taxes, they are more than able to do so.
Meanwhile, it appears that few of the 2,000 or so K-12 teachers laid off in Minnesota this spring will be called back to work this fall. Those layoffs can, in some cases, be tied to decreasing enrollments. But whatever the reason, fewer teachers will mean a poorer education for the children who will be tomorrow’s taxpaying adults. And a poor education means weaker economic prospects for the future – as any of the states in the lower tiers of educational quality well demonstrate.
The link between this year’s tax cuts and education spending is not direct. Separate laws govern education spending plans and tax systems. But the overall picture is clear: Taxes were cut, in some cases for weak reasons, while education is suffering.
Those who enacted this year’s broad policy changes can and do throw up a cloud of statistics to show how, individually, their decisions make sense. But taken as a whole, Minnesota’s path this year is one of momentary riches in exchange for future problems. It was and is poor public policy.