Fixing the system, if needed

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 8, 1999

From staff reports

If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Sunday, August 08, 1999

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If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. But, what if it just seems to be broken?

That’s what a Citizens Jury faced recently when asked to examine the state’s tax system.

A 17-member panel of Minnesotans were asked by the governor to examine the current system and recommend changes. Many said they thought they knew how to &uot;fix it&uot; before sitting on the panel.

In the end, however, they discovered it wasn’t as broke as they thought, but just a little out of shape.

Instead of recommending sweeping reform or changes, the citizens panel suggested a few smaller &uot;tweaks&uot; to the system.

Most of the panel’s suggestions were minor because the group said once they understood the system, they didn’t think it was too bad.

That’s the key, understanding the system.

Instead of jumping the gun and assuming it doesn’t work, people need to learn more about state taxes, where they go and what they do. Members of the Citizens Jury said that’s how they came to their conclusions.

In fact, one member pointed out that it was the lack of information that needed to be corrected not the system.

Trying to suggest sweeping changes – whether to the state tax structure or the county courthouse – without knowing all the facts is senseless.

Even if the suggestion has merit, there is no way of defending it without analyzing all other options.

Once every side of the issue is examined, a proper evaluation can be made.

At that point, one can determine if it’s truly broke and in need of fixing.

Of course, that assessment can’t be made unless citizens have access to all the needed information.

As one Citizens Jury member said, everyone needs access to the information they had. everyone needs the opportunity to analyze our government’s function.

It is the state’s responsibility to supply the desired information and our responsibility to examine it.