While the Minnesota Bar Association is officially non-partisan, most “Trial Lawyers” support the DFL; “Trial Lawyers'” political giving runs about 11-1 for the Democrats, nationwide.
In other words, like most liberals, they’re all for taxes…that affect other people.
But Governor Messinger’s Dayton’s new budget? That’s different:
Today Gov. Dayton unveiled a budget plan that includes a sales tax on legal services. If the proposal becomes law, Minnesota would become only the fourth state to tax legal services. The Minnesota State Bar Association strongly opposes taxing Minnesota citizens and businesses that need legal advice to plan for their futures and protect themselves.
Robert Enger, a legal aid attorney from Bemidji and president of the Minnesota State Bar Association, refers to a tax on consumers of legal services as a “misery tax.” Individuals and families often need to hire lawyers when they are vulnerable and suffering; such as a victim of the economy filing for bankruptcy, a family facing foreclosure, or an innocent victim paralyzed by a drunk driver. A sales tax on legal services would push citizens to either forego their legal rights or attempt to represent themselves in the complex justice system. Minnesota’s court filing fees are among the highest in the nation, which creates an access to justice problem that will only be exacerbated by taxing legal services.
A 5.5 percent sales tax on lawyers means 5.5 percent fewer people will hire lawyers.
The overwhelming majority of states don’t tax legal services because it is widely considered poor public policy and economically damaging.
(Note: that’s true of every good or service. But let’s not digress)
Business will be burdened with significant additional costs, and the tax will be especially unfair to small businesses. Corporations large enough to employ lawyers will avoid the sales tax, while smaller businesses will have to pay. Businesses needing legal assistance to expand or locate in Minnesota may choose to do go elsewhere, and Minnesota law firms with national and international practices will have every incentive to relocate attorneys and staff to one of the many states that do not tax legal services.
It’s not just that lawyers are having trouble – although even in good times, Minnesota creates about a third as may lawyer jobs as it does law school graduates.
It’s that when a regular schnook does need a lawyer, it’s usually a stressful situation; it’s already hideously expensive. And if you need the lawyer to fight a big corporation or any level of government, you’re already at a disadvantage; Governor
Messinger’s Daytons’ plan will leave you at a 5.5% worse disadvantage.
To which liberals – in this case, a west-metro DFLer on Twitter – say “Let them eat cake!”:
— Sue Lantto (@SueLantto) January 23, 2013
I guess that settles that, then!