Walz, Taxation, and Social Engineering

On January 30th, the Star Tribune ran an editorial by DJ Tice explaining how the Walz administration misrepresented the impacts of the enormous tax hikes it has proposed on Minnesotans. The most interesting part of the editorial, in my opinion, was a quote by Governor Walz at the top of the page:

“We use the tax code to either incentivize or disincentivize behaviors, and that’s nothing surprising.”

This admission is not a boring business-as-usual statement; it is a shocking declaration that the Walz administration sees taxation as an important tool to achieve its desired social outcomes and not simply a tool to pay for the roads. Understanding Walz’s worldview helps explain why he wanted to impose massive gas-tax increases in Minnesota.

Governor Walz was talking about how his proposed $1 per pack tax on cigarettes can disincentivize the behavior, but the brazenness of how he said it leads me to think that Walz believes it is his legitimate role to use the power of the purse to goad, prod and micromanage Minnesotans to do what he wants in many other aspects of their lives.

From this point of view, Walz’s 2019 proposal to increase the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon (a 70 percent increase)  feels less like a reasonable way to pay for the roads and bridges we use every day and more like a means to “disincentivize” people from driving cars that run on gasoline or diesel.

These “disincentives” would have come at a massive cost to Minnesota families, increasing their yearly gasoline costs by approximately $300 per year if Center of the American Experiment had not launched a massive campaign urging lawmakers to say “NO!” to the gas tax.

Most Minnesotans probably believe that taxes should be about generating revenue for the necessary functions of government: public safety, building roads and funding schools. However, it appears Governor Walz is willing to use taxation as a cattle prod to subtly badger Minnesotans into complying with his desired social outcomes.

This cynical view of taxation will undermine confidence in state government, and rightly so.