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Editorial: Tax the rich? So we're all rich then?

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opinion Hastings, 55033

Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

Starting this week, we can all feel a little richer — while getting a little poorer.

On July 1, a host of new taxes took effect, as approved this past session by the Minnesota Legislature. And of course, DFL lawmakers and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton were all about taxing the rich — so we all must be rich because many of the new taxes will be paid by every one of us, regardless of our income level.

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Everything from ringtones and pay-per-view movies to computer repairs and books downloaded to Kindles, Nooks and other devices will now carry a Minnesota sales tax. Even e-greeting cards and individual songs for our iPods are subject to the 6.875 percent sales tax.

All things only the wealthy buy, right?

Hardly.

In fact, some of our tax-the-rich state’s new taxes will be paid disproportionately by lower-income Minnesotans. Nowhere is that more clear than the $1.60-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes. Part of the idea of making cigs more expensive is discouraging smoking and the use of tobacco. Oddly, though, the state is counting on increased revenue from tobacco sales as a result of the tax hike.

There’s even a new gift tax. Minnesota becomes only the second state in the nation with a gift tax.

The Legislature did approve a hefty tax hike on the wealthiest of Minnesotans this year, but a larger-than-they-care-to-admit chunk of the desire to plug a budget hole and to spend more on education and other priorities will be borne by the masses. Collecting $2.1 billion more in taxes hits hard both people who are struggling and people more financially secure and able to absorb it.

And let’s not forget all those “new fees and fee increases … scattered throughout the budget bills,” as Minnesota Public Radio reported during the session’s final moments. “The list includes $3 more for a driver’s license, a $5 surcharge on homeowners and auto insurance policies, a new fee on prepaid cell phones and a $15 surcharge on traffic violations.”

Any increased fee or tax demands detailed explanations and justifications. Lawmakers and the governor can be ready with answers for angry constituents, and this time they can spare us their “tax the rich” — suggesting “only the rich” — mantra. That’s clearly not the case.

Duluth News Tribune

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