Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Paying for the Good Life: I've sent a letter to the Minneapolis Star Tribune yesterday about the current budget crisis here in Minnesota. The GOP and the Republican governor are beholden to a pledge many took from an anti-tax group, the Minnesota Taxpayers League. The common complaint is that Minnesota is a high tax state that is crushing business and families. What is interesting is that three former GOP governors have stated they would raise taxes to close the deficit in order to preserve Minnesota's high standard of living. Enjoy.

When I first moved to Minnesota back in 1996, I took a job working at a local coffee chain. The pay was pretty low-$6 hour. Health insurance was available, but I could not afford the premiums with such low pay. In November of that year, I got the flu. I took a few days off of work and them came back. Days later, I started to feel ill again and stayed in bed for a few days. I started to have trouble breathing. I went to emergency and found out I had pneumonia. I was given a five day supply of antibiotics and went home...and got much worse. After a week of illness, I went to the doctor to find out that I needed to go into the hospital right away. My nurse practitioner saw I was fighting a massive infection. I was worried. How was I going to deal with this without any insurance?

Luckily, I went to a clinic that served low-income people and the nurse was able to get me connected with Medical Assistance. I was able to get the care I needed and not be worried about how the bill for all the services would be paid. After a two week hospital stay, I was on my way back to recovery.

As a Republican, I do believe in limited government and individual liberty. However, government should be there to help those who can not help themselves as Abraham Lincoln once said. I don't want a big government, but I do want a compassionate government. If we want a government that is efficient and responds to the needs of people who are down on their luck by no fault of their own, then we have to pay for that.

Governor Pawlenty and the GOP leadership complain that we live in a high tax state. We do, but I can attest that the money has been used rather wisely. I have lived in other high tax states such as Maryland, that spend the money they receive from us very poorly. Republicans should not be against taxes per se, but against them being spent poorly. This is the people's money and it should be spent wisely. Government must be responsible for how it spends our money and it must be responsible for taking care of those who are less fortunate.

Minnesota has been known for its high standard of living. That did not come by accident. It came because both parties wanted to create policies that made this state a good place for all to live. They wanted a place with safe streets, good roads, great schools and healthcare for those who can't afford it. In a recent debate, three former Republican governors believed taxes must be raised in order to make sure that the government can provide services. Their reason was not that they want to hurt people, but because they know that to have a good lifestyle you have to pay for it.

I fear what will happen to a low wage worker who gets ill now. He may go to emergency and get less than the needed treatment. Instead of getting better as I did, he may well get worse, all in the name of lower taxes. We may become a lower taxed state, but at the expense of our souls.


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