Don’t let the shutdown linger

What state politicians can do to save Minnesota from a lengthy shutdown.

by David Steinberg

With the state shutdown now almost two weeks long, many are becoming worried about an even lengthier hiatus. “If this thing goes to the State Fair, it will probably go to January. ThatâÄôs my gut,” state Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, recently mentioned regarding the prolonged state shutdown. Many new problems throughout the state are now joining the more immediate initial losses such as employee layoffs and the closure of state programs.

For example, bars with soon-to-expire liquor licenses will be unable to buy new stock. And public K-12 schools will have to dig into their savings.

Gov. Mark Dayton has recently announced he would be willing to backtrack on his plan to tax the wealthiest 1 percent if the legislature could revisit the expansion of sales taxes, excise taxes or ending current tax breaks. Yet Republican leaders continue their silence, and the urgency of ending the shutdown has subsided considerably now that there are no deadlines.

One hundred and thirty-eight legislators are still getting paid at the same time that 22,000 state workers are laid off.

The state must revisit alternate forms of revenue increase such as increasing tobacco tax and alcohol tax, or ending tax breaks and closing loopholes. Former Minnesota politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, have come together to form a bipartisan commission, launched by Walter Mondale. But this commission has not gained traction solely because the Republicans are unwilling to raise taxes.

Increasing the tobacco tax rate to levels equal to Wisconsin and an increase in the alcohol tax, which has not been raised in 24 years, would bring in nearly half a billion dollars, almost enough to bridge the gap in the budget proposals.

The conclusion should be found through a healthy balance of spending cuts and creative tax increases. The politicians should make the citizens of Minnesota a higher priority than their own political dogma.

David Steinberg welcomes comments at [email protected].