Rev. Carol Shaffer: State should invest in its most vulnerable citizens
One of the most important public investments our state can make is in the care of our children. Child care in Minnesota is in danger of collapse without significant, stable public funding.
One measure of a nation is how it cares for people who can’t care for themselves: children, the elderly, people with disabilities. Free enterprise focuses on profits. People other than owners or stockholders lose out. That’s why care for vulnerable people requires public investment.
A bill our Legislature is considering, HF 300, would fully repeal the state income tax on Social Security benefits. This bill would do nothing for the majority of senior citizens in our state, and would hurt many other people who need care, including children, our most precious resource.
If this bill passes, it would result in an ongoing $1.26 billion tax cut. Seventy percent of the money would go to seniors in the top 20% of income levels. Social Security recipients whose income is less than $50,000 per year would receive an annual tax cut of $210, or about $4 per week. Retirees whose only income is social security do not pay any tax now. 600,000 Social Security recipients — the majority of all retirees — would receive nothing from this tax cut. That includes nearly 75,000 seniors living below the poverty rate.
This tax cut would not help senior citizens who struggle to pay housing, utilities, food and medical costs. Instead, it would severely limit state revenue, revenue we need to invest in the care of our elders, children and families.
One of the most important public investments our state can make is in the care of our children. Child care in Minnesota is in danger of collapse without significant, stable public funding. Over half of the children in our state are in some form of child care for at least 10 hours a week.
Child care affects all of us, no matter our age, because child care is the backbone of our workforce. Without access to affordable child care, parents have difficulties entering or staying in the labor force. Minnesota already has a labor shortage. Do we really want to make it harder for parents to work, especially in the caring professions?
The average annual cost for an infant in a child care center in Minnesota is more than $16,000, and the average cost in a home setting is more than $8,500. Center-based infant care is about 25% of our state’s median income. Many parents pay more for child care than for housing. If our state’s people and economy are to thrive now and in the future, we need to invest heavily and consistently in easing the strain on working parents and child care providers.
As an American and a senior citizen, I want our state and nation to invest public revenue in care for those who cannot care for themselves. A tax cut that primarily benefits seniors in the top 20% of income while slashing the funds available to invest in care for children, elders, and others who need help is not in our best interest, now or in the long run. Please let your legislators know that you oppose repealing the income tax on Social Security benefits.
Rev. Carol Shaffer is a retired Presbyterian minister and hospice chaplain who has lived in Rochester for more than 20 years.