Keith Langseth letter: Pawlenty's fees put the squeeze on working Minnesotans
Minnesotans have paid almost $1 billion in additional fees and surcharges since Gov. Tim Pawlenty took office. A study recently released shows that fees for everything from parking tickets to marriage licenses to telephones will be almost $1 bill...
Minnesotans have paid almost $1 billion in additional fees and surcharges since Gov. Tim Pawlenty took office. A study recently released shows that fees for everything from parking tickets to marriage licenses to telephones will be almost $1 billion more now than when Gov. Pawlenty took office. This represents a 66 percent hike, which the administration characterizes incorrectly as a "modest increase."
I don't believe $1 billion is modest by anyone's standards.
In addition to the $1 billion increase in fees and surcharges, tuition at state universities has skyrocketed by 36 percent and property taxes across the state jumped 10 percent just last year alone. Minnesotans who are working hard to send their kids to college, keep up their homes and pay increased heating and fuel bills, are feeling the squeeze.
And the news gets worse. Last year, a Ramsey County court ruled that the state cannot collect the 75-cent per pack "health impact fee" Gov. Pawlenty placed on cigarettes. If it had been called a tax, there would not be an issue. If the state's Supreme Court upholds this ruling, legislators will be stuck with a $400 million hole in the state budget. This could have all been avoided if the governor would have called the fee a tax.
Honesty is a core value that citizens expect from leaders. It's time that Gov. Pawlenty is candid with Minnesotans. If the current state budget needs more money to give our kids a top-notch education, free our roads from congestion, and fund our state universities, then he needs to be up front about the cost of the state's obligations and not hide from honestly addressing those concerns.
While the governor maintains that he's stuck to his "no new tax" pledge, it simply isn't true. If it's a fee or a tax, the bottom line is that it's coming out of our pockets. It's especially hard for working Minnesotans who find that they are paying more and getting less.
Minnesota can do better than this. -- Sen. Keith Langseth
(Langseth represents District 9 in Northwestern Minnesota.)