Gas tax bad consideration, worse proposal

Connor KocklerColumn, Opinion, Print Editions, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

In just a few short months, our newly inaugurated Gov. Tim Walz has had an eventful start to his term. Large amounts of snow and freezing temperatures created an almost statewide shutdown at the end of January. Sen. Amy Klobuchar also declared her campaign for president, bringing a major Minnesota candidate into the race for 2020. But as we enter March there is one major item on the minds of Minnesotans, and that is the governor’s proposal to raise the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon. While arguments can be made for the additional investments this tax would make possible, an increase of this size is a step too far.

Walz ran on a campaign of “One Minnesota” and increasing investment in areas such as education, infrastructure and healthcare. His new budget proposal, which includes the gas tax increase in question, does allocate money toward these areas. The problem is the number of tax hikes and how they are proposed to be implemented.

The plan calls for the 20-cent per gallon gas tax increase to be phased in over two years, so still rising by 10 cents per gallon per year. Even more worrying, Walz wants the gas tax to increase for inflation in the future, going up without any additional lawmaker input from year to year. Motor vehicle sales tax and registration taxes would go up. It would also increase taxes on businesses by eliminating some deductions they currently enjoy. According to the Star Tribune, these actions would raise more than $11 billion additional in tax revenue over the next 10 years.

Considering the state’s estimated surplus of around $1.5 billion dollars this year, it’s surprising to me this much in tax increases is even being considered, much less being proposed. Minnesota is increasingly moving up the ranks of heavily taxed states, and more of this will make our state a less attractive destination for families and businesses. We should be investing the surplus first if needed, and only then considering what additional revenue might be needed to fund more priorities.

It doesn’t help that taxing gas and motor vehicles is a regressive tax that impacts middle-class Minnesotans, especially in our area. Without the amenity of many public-transit options, most people in this state outside of the Twin Cities rely on their personal vehicles to get to work, pick up kids from activities, and travel for work and leisure. People will lose more from their paychecks as their daily commute is increasingly taxed.

Before Walz jumps headlong into trying to impose this additional tax burden on Minnesota families, he should consult with  legislators and citizens about what can be done to work on his priorities without hurting the very people he’s saying he wants to help with this budget. Using the state surplus, as well as eliminating waste and inefficiencies already present in Minnesota’s government can work to fund needed investments in education, infrastructure and healthcare with the least to no amount of new taxes. The Legislature should also refuse to allow the gas tax to rise automatically, as this goes against the concept of our representatives voting whether to raise taxes on us and bearing the responsibility for that action.

Though I understand Walz’s intentions of wanting to put more investment into the state, continuing to raise the amount of money that everyday Minnesotans are paying shouldn’t be the go-to answer. Taxes are important, but they should also be respected. The state should use existing funds and eliminate inefficiencies before asking the people for more money. New taxes should only be created when absolutely necessary, and raising the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon doesn’t fit the criteria.

Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.

Author: Connor Kockler

Kockler enjoys extensive reading, especially biographies and historical novels, and he has always had an almost inborn knack for writing well. He also enjoys following the political scene, nationally and internationally. In school, his favorite subjects are social studies and language. Two of his other hobbies are golfing and bicycling.

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