Budget cuts are a covert tax on Minnesota families

TBy Stephen Casper the current Minnesota government advocates a no-new-tax policy. This policy is fundamentally flawed because it fails to recognize that budget cuts result in an increased economic burden on the suburban, urban and rural classes. This increased burden far exceeds the costs we would incur with an increase in our individual taxes. For example, with the decrease in higher education spending, all families who have students in the state’s institutions of higher learning will be faced with double-digit percentage increases in their tuition bills. Has it occurred to no one that tuition increases represent a new form of taxation? Call it a selective increase in personal expenses if you prefer, because this amounts to the same thing as a tax, only more expensive to us individually.

Anyone who sincerely believes college education is not a prerequisite for success is naive. While we hear about successful people who never finished the eighth grade, it cannot be denied that most employers (from McDonald’s to H&R Block) prefer or require a resume with a degree. Young people with aspirations for professional careers need college degrees. This need represents a strain on all families committed to helping their children succeed. With increases in tuition all but certain, families committed to the success of their next generation face a covert tax that penalizes them for daring to aspire to their dreams.

Faced with the impossibility of paying for these increased costs, more and more students (and their families) are going to incur astronomical student loan debt. Do we really believe that fifty thousand dollars in student loan debt is good? How many in the next generation of workers are going to be defaulting on these debts, and what is the projected cost to the state when the time comes to prosecute people who have failed to pay monthly loan payments larger than most people’s current mortgage payments?

I truly hope the answer to my criticism from the current government is not that students should not pursue higher education unless they can afford it, much like former Gov. Jesse Ventura’s painfully stupid comment that “if you are smart enough to go to college, you are smart enough to figure out how to pay for it.” This government is advocating a policy designed to create a new tax, a covert tax that masquerades as no tax at all, but nevertheless costs taxpayers much more than any increase in our individual taxes would ever have cost us.

It says something about the current state of thinking if people actually believe corporations will continue to provide jobs here when confronted with a shortage in qualified, educated labor force. Surprisingly, students from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, as well as students from the University, do actually become taxpayers working in Minnesota businesses. Will our employers stick around in Minnesota while we wait for the “smart enough” (whatever that means) to save money to go to college? I hardly think so. We need those corporations and businesses to provide us with jobs. These corporations and businesses need Minnesota to have an educated and creative work force. They also need their work force to not be burdened by ridiculous levels of debt.

If anyone thinks that my argument begins and ends with the costs of college education, consider what the costs will be to those members of the public who are forced to provide care to the aging, mentally ill and disabled members of our society, who cannot provide for themselves and who are heavily impacted by these budget cuts. What are the projections for those increased costs to Minnesota families? Are these additional expenses less then the costs of tax increases? No.

We are having the wool pulled over our eyes, and our leaders who might normally say something about this seem content to remain silent. And then there is the question of how budget cuts will affect our police forces, our fire departments and our infrastructure. Can we have these budget cuts and still be safe? No one seems to be talking about these issues and I, for one, would like to hear some member of our state government begin to ask these questions. We need a political discourse on how beneficial this course of action is for the citizens of this state.

Minnesota has always benefited from its expensive tax policy. We have always ranked nationally as one of the best, safest and most highly educated states in this nation. This government is changing that fact. Minnesota cannot continue to provide those qualities that make this a great state to live in without tax increases. And those tax increases would cost most of us much less than these budget cuts are going to cost most of us now.

Stephen Casper is a University alumnus. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]