Corporations need to pay taxes, too

Published 9:04 am Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Column: Bob Haas, My Point of View

Each year around this time I breathe a sigh of relief that winter is finally coming to a close and I feel good that my tax preparation has been completed, and that I am good in that regard for another year. It also seems that, more often than not, there are more and more reports coming out about the small amount of taxes being paid by corporations in this country.

Bos Haas

These same corporations complain about our country’s tax rates being three times the rate of many other countries, yet I found a long list of companies who paid a big, fat zero and some even got money back from the government. I am not accusing them of doing anything wrong; they all did this in a very legal fashion by using our tax code.

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This list includes companies in our own state that use these same legal loopholes. We never seem to hear about the fact our income taxes have been steadily decreasing and are at the lowest level they have been in the past 60 years. The increases we do see always seem to come in the form of real estate taxes on homeowners as the “no new taxes” pledge by our previous governor has resulted in unsustainable increases at the local level.

Now once again the new majority in our Legislature, both House and Senate, want to further reduce income taxes for businesses because they say our tax system is too high and stifles job creation. Looking back over the past 25 or 30 years, however, we were told if we lower taxes to businesses the increase in extra money they receive will trickle down to the rest of us. If you are an average working person, your pocketbook will tell you how well that worked out for you.

The current buzz in St. Paul seems to be going something like this: “If we starve the beast (government) and slash our state budget, we can give businesses a large tax break, which will create hundreds of new jobs and everything will be fine.”

I realize there is a very large budget deficit we need to cover for the next two years, but one cannot drastically reduce the business tax burden while at the same time cutting public safety funding, cutting our trade office by one-third, and thereby greatly reducing the state’s ability to compete in a global economy, cut millions from our higher education and workforce development budgets thereby stifling training in new technologies that will fuel the jobs of tomorrow and balance the Health and Human Services’ budget on the backs of seniors and disabled Minnesotans.

Don’t get me wrong. We need a strong and vibrant business community so we can create the jobs we need to continue to grow strong communities.

However, we also need a fair tax system shared by all of us that does away with the loopholes. With our current crisis being what it is, we need a balanced approach to revenue that allows us to equally share in the burden of balancing our state budget. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the kind of budget currently being crafted by the majority party in our House and Senate.

Bob Haas is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.