Things are not as bad as they seem

Luther Dorr
Luther Dorr

The taxes seem to keep going up in Minnesota for lots of people (9th among 50 states in individual income tax), people who complain about the taxes but keep living in the North Star State.

Residents of Mille Lacs County complain about their taxes, about the services that those taxes pay for, and wonder when the spending will stop.

Some who live in Princeton on the south end of the county will tell you that they pay the highest utility rates in the state, although nobody has stepped forward to show statistics proving whether or not that is true.

Minnesotans generally feel, it seems, that they pay high taxes, although many will argue that the quality of life is good because of those taxes. I guess it depends on which political party you fall in line with.

Joe and Julie (not their real names) of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, will tell you that we’ve got it pretty good, and that we shouldn’t complain so much.

Joe says he buys almost all of his clothes in the United States (during his on-again, off-again stays in Florida).

“There’s no comparison for the cost of jeans,” he said. “I buy all of those in the U.S.”

Julie, as she sipped a cocktail at one of the many gold mines that pass for a bar/restaurant on the Gulf Coast of Florida, said she loads up on her favorite brand of alcohol when she drives back to Ontario.

“The bottle I buy up there costs me $49 and down here it’s only $26,” she said “I’d be crazy not to take some home with me.”

And Joe chimed in with a statement that beer is much cheaper here than in their province.

He said there’s a combined tax of 13 percent between the provincial and federal governments, and that it also makes sense to buy cars in the United States.

And if two people want to go to a National Hockey League game in Toronto, where the Maple Leafs play, it costs between $400 and $500 for two decent tickets, parking and “a couple hot dogs.”

“What do you guys pay in Minnesota? Joe asked.

Told that a recent trip to the Xcel Center in St. Paul for a Minnesota Wild game amounted to around $200 for a couple seats in the 12th row, parking and some concessions, he shook his head.

“You don’t know how good you have it,” he said.

Ontario, like Mille Lacs County and much of Minnesota, has experienced a snowy winter, Julie saying that because she’s retired she spends four or five weeks at a time in Florida, goes home for a little while and comes back to Florida.

“He has to stay up there to make money to pay for me,” she said with a laugh, as Joe frowned.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Joe said as his wife talked about weekends in Florida with girlfriends as he slaves away in Canada. “I love our country. But we pay a lot more for things.”

He said he was satisfied with the medical care his father received during a recent illness before he died, although he admitted that Canada’s provincially-run health care program is liked by some and disliked by others.

Dave, a former Connecticut resident who is now a full-time resident of Florida, said he couldn’t help listening in.

“It’s the same with medicare here,” he said. “Some like it and some don’t.”

“One thing that’s different up in Canada is that if someone has a baby, we pay for all of it,” said Joe. “I don’t think that’s the case here.”

Joe and Julie, saying it was past dinner time, got up to leave, only to have Dave offer to buy them one more.

Joe and Julie gave in, saying the hospitality they’ve found in the States “has been awesome.”

Joe has to go back to work this week, Julie is going to stay a few extra days, and Dave, who is also retired, said he had to go fishing tomorrow.

We all agreed that we’d meet later this week.

“One more thing,” Joe said. “Gas is about $1.50 more up there when you figure out how many liters there are in a gallon. You guys have it made.”

Dave looked at me and we decided not to argue. Sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.