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Letter: Legislature needs to get its financial house in order

It is time for taxpayers to let their voices be heard regarding Minnesota's budget deficit problem. Gov. Pawlenty is receiving a lot of pressure from DFL lawmakers and left-wing liberals to raise taxes to solve the state's budget deficit problem. Gov. Pawlenty correctly states that increasing taxes, in the face of today's serious economic downturn, would be a huge mistake and would cause further harm to many thousands of Minnesotans who are struggling to make ends meet and stay in their homes. Raising taxes would only cause further economic pain and job losses.

Rather than raising taxes, the state must tighten its belt, similar to the private sector by reducing spending across the board. All state agencies, colleges and universities should be requested to identify and eliminate unnecessary spending. Here are some examples:

--Lawmakers should rescind the backdoor unwarranted per diem pay raise they gave themselves on the first day of the legislative session in 2007.

--Lawmakers should implement stronger controls over the run-away expenses that some legislators are charging taxpayers. For example, many are receiving $14,400 for 12 months lodging (over and above their salary) even though the legislative session only lasts a few months. Others are charging taxpayers as much as $10,000-$15,000 per year in mileage reimbursement expenses.

--A hiring freeze should be implemented for all state agencies, colleges and universities.

E Public employee unions should be requested to accept wage reductions and/or wage freezes during the upcoming two-year budgeting cycle (similar to actions already being implemented in the private sector and other state governments).

Based on U.S. Census data, Minnesota is the fifth highest per capita taxing state in the nation. Minnesota residents are taxed substantially higher than all surrounding states including Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota. Also, based on the 2008 business tax index published by the non-partisan Small Business Council, Minnesota is ranked as the 49th worst tax system out of 50 states. Is it any wonder that we are losing business investment and jobs to other states? (Incidentally South Dakota is ranked best in the nation and has an unemployment rate of only 3.2 percent, the lowest in the nation.) Needless to say, Minnesota, with a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, needs jobs! We do not need higher taxes.

A.L. Kleinke