The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the working class and our most vulnerable residents. Food and housing insecurity and job loss are emblematic of the issues the COVID-19 pandemic is illuminating: structural inequity and the growing wealth and income gap.
Public employees have been forced to sleep in ice houses and hotel rooms to protect their families from contracting COVID-19. They go to work every day knowing they are putting themselves and their family at risk while serving the people of Minnesota. In return, all they ask for is dignity and respect, fair wages and decent benefits. They believe in paying taxes for the services Minnesotans need, but they also want to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share to pay for these services.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the country’s “pandemic billionaires” have grown their wealth by over $1.1 trillion (Forbes, Jan. 26). All while many elected officials in Washington, D.C., have failed to deliver $2,000 relief checks to Americans to pay for their prescriptions, heat their homes, pay for their child’s new winter coat, and put food on the table. But Gov. Tim Walz is taking action to bring fairness and justice to Minnesota’s tax code; we call on the Legislature and the public to seriously consider his proposal.
A fifth-tier income tax
Walz’s plan would create a fifth-tier income tax, which is long overdue and very popular. According to a recent Data for Progress survey, 67% of Minnesotans strongly support/somewhat support raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations. It is difficult to comprehend how our tax code still treats income over $1 million, $5 million, or $10 million the same as income over $250,000. As Minnesotans, we can agree that couples making more than $20,000 every week are better positioned to pay a higher tax rate.
This is true in normal times; it is all the more vital in the wake of a global pandemic that has caused historic financial pain for so many working people and families while others have actually benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontline workers continue to pull us through the hardest times we’ve experienced in generations and the wealthy should be expected to step up and do just a little bit more to help Minnesota recover.
It will make important investments possible
High-quality public services, safe and dignified conditions for all workers, and investments that expand access to the American dream are not free; they must be prioritized and paid for. Minnesotans should support Walz’s tax plan because it will make more of those investments possible; it will ensure the fiscal stability necessary to continue our history of high-quality services for the public; and it does so by asking the folks who have benefited the most by our economic system to pay a tiny bit more while lowering the income tax for over 1 million workers in our state.
For the last decade, leadership in the state executive branch has tirelessly advocated and worked to stabilize our state budget. Gov. Mark Dayton’s legacy of fiscal stability, strategizing for the long-term, and asking the wealthiest to contribute a tiny bit more have made all recent investments possible. Walz wisely carries that legacy on and keeps the torch of fiscal stability burning bright for future generations.
In our fight for racial, social, and economic justice, the governor’s plan to tax Minnesota’s wealthiest citizens is a critical step forward in building our new future and recovering from this global pandemic.
Julie Bleyhl is the executive director of AFSCME Council 5, a public employee labor union representing more than 43,000 workers from across Minnesota.
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