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From the Left Hand Corner: NO on rebates!

Let us not fall in with those creating a hullabaloo over rebates this year.

We are in the recently rare status of state government taking in more dollars than are budgeted for payment this year. Most of us consider that a delightful and welcome dilemma to be in. Some of us would leave it at that.

Others, however — legislators fom both sides, but particularly Republican — are clamoring for rebates to us taxpayers. This writer votes “no” to rebates.

If it turns out that rebates are, in fact, acted upon and passed, and if I receive one, I’ll probably do the same as I did with the last one and donate it to DFL candidates and campaigns.

It would be different if the temporary surplus we now enjoy was created by mistake, but it wasn’t. We Democrats can take a little of the credit because our DFL governor and Legislature finally made some overdue tax adjustments on those who could well afford it.

But a major factor in creating the $1.2 billion extra that everyone is lusting after is that our economy has improved, is improving and more people are working, hence in position to pay taxes.

The issue of whether to rebate is not as new as it may seem to some. It’s been a while, after a decade or so of dealing with one budget deficit after another. However, the subject of tax rebate has come up before, and it has been wrongly decided before.

My reflections on this issue are not as partisan as usual. As a matter of fact, they are partly of conservative bent. If my recall is correct, the last time we went through the state tax rebate charade, the payments were something like $25 or $30, probably just about matching the cost of administrating the payments.

An earlier recall of the rebate political gamut goes back about 30 years or so. DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich pushed hard for rebates, and they were gleefuly implemented by the corresponding vote-conscious Legislature.

It was a wrong decision then as it will be now.

It is a wasteful time expenditure in a race for political gain to have each party trying to convince the voting public that it is more ready than the other to provide unexpected largesse to us gleeful and grateful voters.

I don’t think any rebate consideration pops up in the many other everyday situations where sums of money are paid in that total up to more than is required for immediate disbursal.

Of course, if a bill is overstated, or too much is rung up at the cash register, we expect correction to be made. So also we expect adjustment if errors occur in tax application or assessment.

But, we don’t expect to be repaid every time there is margin between payment in and payment out. For a recent example, when I paid way too much for the last tankful of propane gas, do you think the local delivering dealer or the big oil company that caused the exorbitant price increase in the first place is going to break out the rebate checks and reward me for the overpayment?

I will not hold my breath in anticipation.

So why should state taxpayers be looking for a rebate now? When I paid my taxes last year I simply paid my share of the cost or government; the government that provides me protection and a whole lot of services for my benefit and benefit to all Minnesotans.

I hadn’t planned for, counted on and do not now expect rebate on that legitimate price we pay for government. It is a waste of legislative time and effort for some opportunistic legislators to be contesting among themselves in establishing rebates to impress likely voters for this November. They’ve got better and more important things to do.

Where else does the recipient of your money toss it back? The only rebates we generally encounter are part of our economic hucksterism. Thousand dollar rebates are doled out to car buyers who can’t afford to pay for the car at the time so they go home to pay interest for years, not only on the car, but the “so called” rebate in their pocket.

The other “rebate” we may be familiar with is like Menard’s, where the only rebate you get is when you go back to buy more.

No doubt some sincerity is involved, but emphasis on state tax rebates in Minnesota this year is mostly another example of unwarranted pandering to taxpayers and voters. They are just another bad incidence that plays upon on our too evident propensity to seek to get something for nothing.

It is not our money anymore. We paid it out, whether grudgingly or willingly. It was our last year’s payment as price of government.

Sure, we paid our good money over the past year or so. It turns out that it wasn’t all needed in 2013. Maybe not every dollar paid is needed right now or next week. But someday in the near future,it will be needed.

So leave it there, and use it wisely when the need inevitably occurs. If ever we establish a long pattern of taking in more than required needs, then by all means, if ever that happens, make downward adjustment in collections.

Keep in mind that as some are now crying for rebate, and others are pointing out legitimate areas of correction and adjustment (particularly in the business area) that will likely reduce this year’s tax income and thus reduce future cash balances.

Let’s forget about rebates and get on with the pressing needs we have for legislative consideration. We’ve still got a crumbling infrastructure throughout Minnesota. We still have many thousands who do not have access to affordable health care. We have basic education needs unmet, falling behind in world competition, continuing education gaps and low completion rates with resultant untrained workforce — and the list goes on.

What is wrong with saving it? Let’s enhance our savings or rainy day funds. If no emergency crops up for awhile, so much the better.

Isn’t it still permissible to put money aside and draw interest on it, and have it available to pay cash for things that we need in the future or is that to “old fashioned” to consider?

We should not be handing out rebate checks this spring or summer in order to buy votes in November.