HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
April 2, 2007, Herald Journal

Some taxes can’t be tolerated

By ROZ KOHLS

I don’t mind paying taxes up to a point. If I can squeeze them into my budget, or if I think the money will be used wisely, I think of taxes as a necessary evil, like swallowing bad-tasting medicine. The benefits will come later.

Also, building roads and bridges is one of government’s greatest strengths. Government engineers roads a lot better than it engineers social programs, such as the war on poverty, or Medicaid.

However, this latest tax hike the Minnesota House approved March 24 is big enough to choke a horse. It boosts levies on gasoline, vehicles and general sales to the tune of $9.1 billion.

The problem with taxing gasoline is that it falls just as heavily on poor people, who need gasoline to get to work, as it does rich people. DFLers are always claiming they only want to raise taxes on the rich. This transportation tax falls on everyone who needs to drive. It is clearly one I can’t afford.

The average family is expected to pay $500 more a year on top of the 20-cents a gallon tax we pay now. It comes from a 10-cents a gallon increase in gasoline tax, an increase on registration renewal fees, and a half-cent general sales tax increase in the metro area.

What’s worse than the expense is how the money from the general sales tax increase in the metro area will be spent. The majority of it is going for mass transit, not roads and bridges. The chances of me getting to ride mass transit in the Twin Cities are slim to none.

I don’t have much faith in mass transit anyway because it’s so inconvenient. Mass transits follows set routes and schedules that don’t always match what the riders want.Most of the people who will use it already ride the buses now. It won’t take many drivers off the road or relieve traffic congestion much.

Luckily for me, Gov. Tim Pawlenty intends to veto the bill, and it doesn’t have enough support to override a veto. Also, the part of the bill for the sales tax isn’t as popular with legislators as the rest of the bill is. An amendment to remove the sales tax from the bill almost passed. Legislators also attempted to make the sales tax subject to a voter referendum, but the attempt failed by only three votes.

It’s a fact of life that not everyone gets to live near where they work. This “morbidly obese tax increase,” as House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall called it, needs to go on a diet.