(Note: We received the following e-mail recently from Monica Manning, a former community college faculty member and dean, first director of the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership, and co-founder of The Nova Group, an education innovation consulting firm. She retired to Arizona five years ago and is now a resident of the Grand Canyon State. She consented to posting her e-mail as a guest blog.)
Just read the April 15 Growth & Justice Bulletin and decided to watch the clip of the Almanac discussion on Minnesota’s business climate, taxes, and quality of life.
There are so many things I want to say, I’m not sure where to begin. . .except to offer a message to Minnesotans: “Listen to Dane Smith. He says it well!”
Here’s my take on state taxes and how we get what we pay for from sunny and warm Tucson Arizona:
1) The outmigration of upper income Minnesota residents has little if anything to do with state income taxes. People told me Arizona would have a lower income tax, but that was absolutely NOT what brought me here. As Dane said, warmer climates draw many people at or near retirement age. It’s wonderful to be able to run every morning year round, with no ice or snow to contend with; to be able to park my car anyplace and walk whatever distance without steeling myself for the cold wind; to be able to sit out on the patio in the evening under the stars (no mosquitos!).
2) I’ve now had my home here for 4 years and 51 weeks (but who’s counting?). I find much that I love about Southern Arizona. But the quality of life I have here is way beyond what most Tucsonans have or can ever dream of having. This inequality is the worst part about living here.
3) I have Minnesota friends and neighbors here who say they would never want to raise their children here because of the low quality public education. And those friends are snowbirds who just returned to Minnesota to pay their income taxes there.
4) The lack of quality public education, decent and reliable social services, and middle-income employment affects all of us, not just the poor.
5) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has been lowering business taxes with the promise of an in-migration of good high-paying jobs. But the Arizona Star recently reported that the fastest growing segment of the economy offers low-pay jobs that require no diploma. Another recent Arizona Star article shows that the promise of economic stimulus from tax cuts has fallen short, and it shows specifically how much money is being lost with these business tax cuts . It’s growing to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
6) My own state income tax burden is so light here that I use every opportunity to advance the thesis that we need to raise state income taxes, and we need to restore the business taxes that Governors Brewer and Ducey have eliminated. I’m also an advocate for the Foothills, where I live, to be incorporated into the City of Tucson so we pay Tucson taxes. After all, what the city offers is important to our being here.
As Dane said, he just returned from Texas. He was born there and he knows Texas well. And he knows most Minnesotans would not want the quality of life in Texas that is experienced by the vast majority of families who struggle to make ends meet at the middle and lower income levels. And that’s also true of other Sunbelt states like Arizona.
I sometimes say I’m here in Arizona not just to enjoy my retirement but to pay my dues for the good life in Minnesota. Living in Arizona motivates me to work to expand opportunities for more people here.