2010 Election: discuss the candidates and the issues

Finally, a place to discuss all the candidates and any issues related!

Reminder: see our discussion guidelines.

Links: if you know of links to A) candidate websites/blogs; or B) candidate profiles/interviews in the media, please paste the URL’s/web addresses in your comment.


City Council – At Large – 4 year term
Norman Butler
Rhonda Pownell

City Council – Ward 4 – 4 year term
Patrick Ganey
Dale B. Gehring

Northfield School Board

Four-year seat
Mike Berthelsen
John Fossum
Kari Nelson
Julie Pritchard
Greg Schultz


Glenn Switzer
Myron Malecha

Council – two four-year seats
Ryan Carroll
Tresa Mazurek
Grant Modory
Wade Murray
John Zander

Rice County

County Sheriff – 4 year term
Troy Dunn
Mark Murphy

County Commissioner District 2 – 4 year term
Daniel Freeman
Galen Malecha

Minnesota Senate District 25
Kevin L. Dahle  – DFL
John A. Grimm – Independent
Al DeKruif – Republican

Minnesota House District 25B
David H. Bly – DFL
Kelby Woddard – Republican

United States Representative District 2
Shelley Madore – DFL
John P. Kline – Republican

Minnesota Constitutional Offices

Governor – 4 year ter
Mark B. Dayton – DFL
and Yvonne Prettner Solon

Ken Pentel – Ecology Democracy Party
and Erin Wallace

Chris Wright – Grassroots Party
and Edwin H. Engelmann

Farheen Hakeem – Green
and Dan Dittmann

Thomas Horner – Independence
and James A. (Jim) Mulder

Tom Emmer – Republican
and Annette T. Meeks

Linda S. Eno – The Resource Party
and Howard B. Hanson

Attorney General – 4 year term
Lori Swanson (incumbent) – DFL
Bill Dahn – Independence

Chris Barden – Republican
David J. Hoch – The Resource Party

State Auditor – 4 year term
Rebecca Otto – DFL
Kenny Kalligher – Grassroots Party
Annie Young – Green
Patricia (Pat) Anderson – Republican

Secretary of State – 4 year term
Mark Ritchie – DFL
Jual Carlson – Independence
Dan (Doc) Severson – Republican

230 thoughts on “2010 Election: discuss the candidates and the issues”

  1. Beginning Friday, Northfield.org will have local candidates’ profiles and and answers to questions assembled from citizens. This is being organized by the Norhfield League of Women Voters and Northfield.org. Not interactive, of course, but a place to learn more about the candidates for School Board, City Council, and Rice County Commissioner and Sheriff.

  2. I know Patrick Ganey from his work with Cannon River Watershed Partnership and I think he would be a great addition to the City Council. Being a lover of ducks, the title of his radio show, “Duck Fat and Politics,” appeals to me.

  3. I’ve met Shelley Madore at a couple of events, and look forward to voting for her, against John Kline, as 2nd House district representative to Congress.

    We could discuss Ms Madore’s views and other attributes, and similarly for Rep. Kline. What really strikes me about this race is the near-total absence of Rep. Kline from the fray. If he’s done any debates or other joint appearances with his opponent around here I haven’t heard about them. What gives?

    Here’s my real question. Presumably, Rep. Kline sees more to lose than to gain in encountering his opponent in a debate or other level playing field. As a purely political calculation, this one is probably correct, and his strategy certainly seems legal. And of course anyone who doesn’t like this behavior can just vote against the guy.

    But do candidates have any ethical or moral obligation to show up at some reasonable minimum of public events related to a campaign? Or is it OK to fly, drone-like, above the radar?

  4. For Council person at large I feel that with Norm Butlers business experience it will a great need to help the new council help make Northfield a friendlier business place to locate and hire people our biggest issue is Jobs and re-gaining a strong economy not only locally but statewide. We need Jobs. With a vibrant local business atomsphere that will go a long way and I think that with Norm Butlers help this will occur. Thanks and be sure to VOTE . It is a Honor to Vote

  5. Hi LGN! What a beautiful site you have here, Griff, Tracy, and Ross! It’s loverly.

    It all comes down to responsibility, and John Kline’s approach may not be responsible. The Republican Pledge to America could even be more damaging than evasive and “Drone-like” behavior might be… it could put our nation at risk.

    We’ve been at war without paying for it (yet), letting the rich get by without paying their fair share of tax, and running on a dime but promising a dollar.

    No more waving magic wands. It’s time for responsible budgeting, fair taxation, and long lasting jobs incentives which encourage employers to keep employees. (An example of a long lasting incentive would be subsidies for health care, for example). Let’s find what works, and strengthen our Minnesota and our nation. I believe Shelley Madore is the right person to lead us in the right direction.

    And… I feel Obama is Gulliver and our US Congress is the little people holding him back w strings. On a positive note, I’m glad to hear Obama talk about government being held accountable. That’s what it is all about in our USA. That and ensuring opportunity for our middle class.

    PS, I’m working as an organizer for a local politician, but not for Shelley Madore.

    1. Holly- Obama may very well be Gulliver (I always thought his claims had strings attached), but with a a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, it seems the only thing that has been accomplished in the last couple years is a few more trillion dollars of debt. Much of that was used to buy out a bunch of financial executives who got into their fix via their own greed. I hear a lot of blame for our woes placed upon a president who hasn’t been around for two years and the minority party. If the Republican minority can have this much adverse effect on the function of government, then maybe it would be prudent to put them into the majority. At least the blame would have some credibility. The thing I am frustrated with is that even when there is a one party in both the executive and legislative branches, it seems that the government cannot make any progress in really addressing the needs of the populace, namely jobs and health care and providing for senior citizens. My fear is that we are setting ourselves up for a dictatorship. Getting out to vote is the best defense against that, no matter what your political convictions.

      1. Hi John,

        Obama and strings… ha ha.

        Obama seems to agree with me that accountability is a huge priority.

        You think nothing has been done in the last two years? That great depression was a close call… remember? Now we just need to bail out the people, so it’s not just wall street… even though you and I benefit from a strong wall street.

        What’s your opinion on taxation: Should we keep those tax cuts for the wealthy?

        I don’t feel our government is too strong. Instead, I worry about irresponsible “no tax” politicians getting in office and tanking our entire country. No money for defense, no money to ensure the middle class has opportunity, etc. there’s all this talk about spending as if Democrats keep the money. Really, Democrats want “fair.” At least I do. I also want sustainability.

      2. Holly- I think the whole tax system needs revamping. Right now, I believe there are too many loopholes for people to avoid their responsibility. I think we are going to see a national sales tax coming in the near future. I noticed that our computer system at work has been upgraded to include a line item for national sales tax. The ground work has been laid, it is just the legislation that needs to pass. Is this an answer? I don’t know. Although this would be a consistent tax across the board on whatever items are designated to be taxed, the reality is that this tax will be a larger percentage of take-home pay for low income people compared to higher income people. Another idea out there is a flat tax, say 10% of your gross income with no deductions. This would be fair, but, again, the lower wage earner spends a greater percentage of his income on necessities than a higher wage earner, given that they both consume about the same amount of food and energy.
        As far as cutting taxes, it always sounds good to pass the bill onto those who make more than we do. In reality, if I remember my figures correctly, the top 5% of the wealthiest people in the country still contribute 40% of all the taxes collected. If you think this is fair, that’s fine. It really doesn’t affect me one way or the other.
        As far as the government being strong, if you equate size with strength, then we should have a very powerful governemt. I don’t think anyone is pushing for a weak government. I do think that the size of our government could be cut without compromising its strength. As people live longer, the retirement packages for elected oifficials, including health care and security, is beginning to get expensive. Is it any wonder that the Congress has rejected legislative initiatives to limit their retirement compensation to that of the average citizen?

  6. Oh, and I’m not against our war in Afghanistan. I’m glad we call it “war” (that’s an honest label)… and I don’t think we should forget what happened to our trade towers. There has to be proper action on our part, or people think they can get away with things like that.

    That said, I’m glad we seem to have a 5 year exit strategy, and I still am waiting for a good reason we were recently in Iraq.

      1. Oooh, no war in Saudia Arabia, please, but I bet you weren’t suggesting that. Seems to me Bin Laden and et. al train others and hide out there (and in Pakistanian outlying areas? Uh oh.)

        I wonder how we could help the Afghanistani people… seems like a good idea to help them prosper somehow. What about those precious metals? Hopefully a middle class arises…

      2. Personally, I think we should have left Afghanistan at the end of 2003-beginning of 2004. By that time Al Qaeda and much of the Taliban had been pushed out of the country and the people of Afghanistan had held the Loya jirga of 2003 to consider a constitution. It would have been a great time to say “good luck with that” and head on out.

      3. Phil,

        We had no business in there in the first place. Afghanistan was not involved in the trade center bombings.

      4. But the people that planned and financed it WERE in Afghanistan, and for the majority of our countrymen that was enough justification to go. My point is that after those people had removed themselves from Afghanistan and the government that had allowed them to plan and train there had been removed, they was no justification to stay.

        But it does beg the question…do you think we should have gone to war with Saudi Arabia?

      5. Phil,

        No, we shouldn’t have attacked Saudi Arabia, nor Iraq, nor Afghanistan. Also, I wouldn’t call what we did a “war”. It was a massacre in an attempt to locate bin Laden – massacre that had little chance of success, and remains unsuccessful 9 years later.

      6. David, no…it’s a war. You can tell by the people dying. Regarding the idea that there was little chance of success in finding Bin Laden, he was found in December 2001. He was surrounded during the Battle of Tora Bora, but due to our own incompetence/miscalculations he got away. See http://foreign.senate.gov/reports/download/?id=30753123-b747-4b7c-83fb-d350cc0aacef for the Senate report. Intelligence agencies didn’t pick up on the fact that he was still alive until early 2002. And to my mind that’s when planning for disengagement from Afghanistan should have begun.

  7. I agree with Dave Roberts. Norm Butler would be my choice for the at-large Council seat. I thought his comments on development of the northern industrial park (Saturday NNews?) so as not to further disadvantage the downtown made good sense.

    I, too, am frustrated that Congressman Kline is not agreeing to candidate forums yet. And, I am frustrated that Tom Horner seems to be getting some traction in his run for governor. I know him from his consulting work for big ag and other corporate interests. Horner is well connected, not someone who will look out for the little guy. Just ask the nurses.

  8. Must agree with Holly on all… except don’t feel quite as good about WAR in Afghanistan.. and I am so agreeable today 🙂 ! … because I also agree with Dave and Steph on Norman for the at-large seat.

    Norman is a true entrepreneur, and it is the SPIRIT of that which is so desperately needed at this time. We need not a go-along council, but one that will raise the questions that need to be asked. Councilors can work hard, very hard, at their tasks, but if they always accept what is in the staff reports , and do not ever question the conclusions reached, then they are not accepting the policy development load that is to be borne by the councilor, not the staff member.

  9. John George: Should the people with 40% of the wealth conttibute 40% of the taxes? I think so. It does affect me–we have transferred wealth to the wealthy and impovershed our middle class. This leads to less economic opportunity for everyone, including the wealthy. If the wealthy quit buying their congressmen and senators with the stupid-selfish motivation, they would realize that a vibrant economy is in their best interest–including a progressive tax rate system.

    Unfortunately we continue to promulgate the idea that the tax system is being unfairly administered and some are cheating their way out of their fair share when in reality we have written it into the law that Wall-Street hedge fund managers should only pay a miniscule capital gains tax rate on their BILLION dollar earnings while the rest of us have to pony up Self-employment tax plus income taxes at a higher rate. This is what Obama wants to take out of the system.

    Meanwhile, for some reason, the incresingly impovershed middle-class claims that we are going to “kill jobs” if we increase taxes on the wealthy. Give me a break. They didn’t create any jobs when they got the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, (and we lost 8 million jobs from then until Obama took office) and none of the 26 guys who each got paid 1 BILLLION dollars EACH in 2009 didn’t create a single job. Oh, maybe they hired another gardener. Or maybe not.

    A national sales tax is not on the table but a VAT is always brought up by people who understand it. Unfortunately, people who don’t call it a national sales tax. They are not at all the same. A VAT is similar to some European governments way of taxing businesses.

    The Republicans have prevented tax relief bills from coming to a vote in order to claim that Obama isn’t doing anything–unfortunately the Republicans only believe their own talking points. I wish back to the time when reasonable people (not wing-nuts) ran for office and worked for what was best for the country–not what was best for their political party.

    Vote Shelly Madore and boot that carpet-bagger John Kline back to Texas where he belongs.

    1. Hi Jane! Good points, as usual.

      I’m for the wealthy paying their fair share. The widow’s coin is too much, but at least we can close the loopholes, like John George said earlier.

      What’s your thoughts on “fair”? I’d like to understand that, more.

  10. Good thoughts, Jane. I called the Kline office listed in an alert today, asking him to support a constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC that gives corporations the same speech rights as people, resulting in the wild spending that is going on in this election.

    Kline’s Minnesota campaign office referred me to his policy office which referred me to his DC office. A young woman called me back saying she would take the message but would not see Kline for a few weeks…

    I just got a particularly nasty flyer against Bly from a group called Coalition of Minnesota Business PAC with a St. Paul address. Anyone know anything about this group? Googling it came up with nothing.

  11. I’m trying to figure out why Dayton figures two people who are married and make $85,000 each are considered “wealthy”, while one person who makes $129,000 is not. The couple would pay $200 more in state income tax under Dayton’s proposal, the individual would not pay a dime more. Why the high threshold for singles?

    1. William,

      For the record, here are Dayton’s numbers: the top rate he proposes kicks in at $130K for singles and at $150K for married couples.

      I don’t know why Dayton chose these particular numbers as opposed to, say, $133K and $157K. But the general principle that higher tax rates kick in for marrieds somewhere below twice the rate for singles is hardly novel. The highest federal marginal income tax rate (35%), for instance, kicks in at $374K both for single and for married taxpayers. Anyone worried about “marriage penalties” should look east, not north.

      I have no opinion on who deserves to be called “wealthy”. I’d rather discuss policy than argue the semantics of such a loaded word.

      1. Paul:

        I used ‘wealthy’ because that is the word Dayton has used. Personally, I am all for wealth and don’t consider the term loaded. My point was, and remains, that a ‘policy’ of raising income tax should attempt to be equitable in how it treats those from which it expects to pay the tax: The ‘very affluent’.

        I don’t think a proposal that expects a couple, filing jointly, to pay more if together they earn $150,000 is fair. Particularly when another couple, filing separately can earn $260,000 and not pay a penny more.

        I don’t object to increased income taxes in order to help balance the budget. But that increase should be part of a program that expects every citizen to make a sacrifice to that end, not just the wealthy. Whether by income tax increases, cuts in favored programs or an extension of the sales tax, everyone should be a part of the solution.

    2. Hi William,

      These thoughts of yours are taken by me as “anti-Dayton.” So, are you for Emmer? Are you for sales tax, or tax on food?

      I think we should call our candidates if we have suggestions, and support our candidates with “what we like” in public.

      We might get farther rallying behind what we like instead of pointing out what’s wrong all the time.

      1. Holly…I am for expanding the sales tax to clothing and food with some kind of credit to protect those with the lowest incomes. I am for a one time income tax surcharge on all taxpayers. I am for reducing the pay of the highest paid state employees and increasing efficiency in state government by consolidating some departments. I think every state department could find a way to get by on 1% less funding if given that mandate until the budget was in balance. I am not pro-Dayton, and a lot Anti-Emmer. I am leaning toward Horner at the present time. So…how about you?

    3. William,

      I don’t mean to assume anything about your views, pro or con, of the “wealthy.” IMO the word is loaded (ambiguous might be a more neutral descriptor) because it invites so many defensible but different definitions — as your use of quotes around it in #14 suggests.

      In any case, I think we agree that Dayton’s actual proposals matter more than the words used to describe them. I don’t feel strongly either way about the (arguable) marriage penalty implicit in Dayton’s proposal, but respect your view.

      We agree, too, that income taxes should be part of addressing budget problems. Dayton — alone among the 3 major candidates — has offered one defensible approach to doing this. True, his strategy doesn’t solve all problems at one stroke, and IMO it’s sometimes been clumsily presented by Dayton. But I find the general goal of raising about $2B from additional income tax not unreasonable in context, and I like Dayton’s willingness to be out front on a difficult matter.

      I also respect Horner’s idea of extending the sales tax, and his guts for being willing, like Dayton, to make a hard call. Probably not as hard a call as Dayton’s, however — I’m guessing a sales tax extension would raise less than Dayton proposes, and much less than what’s needed, even if substantial spending cuts were made.

      If I were tax emperor I’d try to spread the pain broadly but thinly, in ways more or less like those you suggest. I’d be open, too, to *decreasing* some taxes and increasing others. At least some business-incident taxes, for instance, do appear to have gotten out of line, and perhaps a better balance should be achieved.

      Some state spending cuts may also be called for, and seem inevitable in any case. Those you describe (in the 1% range, if I read correctly) should certainly be possible. My worry (yet again, I’d guess we agree) is that draconian spending cuts, like those Emmer seems to favour, will effectively dis-invest in our own capacity to thrive.

  12. William, when you figure that out please let us all know. Frankly, I get sick of Dayton trying to run successful people out of Minnesota. I’m sure readers saw the article in the Strib the other day about the guy who was chatting with is well-off friends…and discovered none of them live in Minnesota. If we keep that game going we will get more visitors and fewer taxpayers. Good luck with that plan.

    And one has to remember, contrary to what just about every Minnesota media source prints, Minnesota has a progressive income tax system where the ‘wealth’ pay far more than everyone else. They continue to trot out the standard statement that the ‘wealthy pay a lower percent of taxes than the lesser wage earners’. As my friend Paul Zorn would quicky point out, numbers can be made to ‘say’ just about anything. Once people make estimates on what wealthy people pay in sales tax, liquor tax, tobacco tax, real estat tax and on and on, they can then make statements like that. But it is important to remember the vast majority of taxes other than income taxes as discrtionary taxes. You pay them if you use the product. If you don’t use it, you don’t pay it.

    The bottom line is Minnesota has a rather sensible income tax system. Our main problem is that we rely in income taxes a bit too much. Income tax revenue is very volitile. When it drops, like it has done the past couple of years, it creates big holes in our state budget if the state fails to adjust their budget to fit the anticipated revenue. If you want the spending side to continue on ‘business as ususal’ and protect the status quo, then you have to do like Dayton is doing….try and figure out a way to get more revenue out of essentially the same number of taxpayers.

    1. Ray,

      Thanks for the call-out … good to hear from you in this thread.

      I’d tweak your friendly paraphrase of my view just a bit. Yes, some numbers can be found that seem to support almost any point of view. The hard parts are finding the right numbers and making the case that your numbers, uh, make your case.

      Are Minnesota state taxes progressive? It depends on whether you look *only* at income tax — which is indisputably progressive, simply by definition: a tax is “progressive” (not “flat” or “regressive”) if higher earners pay a higher percentage. One could argue about *how* progressive the system should be, but not credibly about whether it’s progressive or not. I don’t know of any credible “Minnesota media sources” who would argue otherwise.

      Questions about progressivity become live when other-than-income taxes and fees come into the picture — as they must in any serious discussion. As you suggest, hard numbers are trickier to come by here, and matters of choice as well as obligation arise.

      But it hardly follows that we should just ignore these harder numerical questions, as you seem to recommend. Better we should acknowledge complexity while trying to deal with it.

      Any thoughts, while on such subjects, on Emmer’s financial plans?

  13. And Tom Emmer would be successful : I do not know where he would be a shining light for Minnesota Leadership. Not favoring a Anti-Bullying laws that would and should be enforced. We are all in this together we need to focus on understaning each other after all WWJD Thanks David

  14. I have a question that whenever I ask it, no one seems to be able to give me a good answer.

    We keep talking about the “rich” need to pay more taxes. Sounds like a good and reasonable solution. However, the rich didn’t get there by being stupid. If we raise their taxes, don’t you think that we the consumers/users are going to be paying more for their produts and or services? They aren’t going to just take that on their own without passing it along. Isn’t that how it works?

    Shelley Brady

  15. I want to just address some of the tax whining.

    1. If you have a job paying $85,000 you have a good job. That is decent pay. You are way better off than those making $23,000 or $35,000 a year. WAY better off.

    2. If both you and your spouse have jobs paying $85,000, you both have really good jobs and if you are not comfortable financially it is due to other circumstances–like poor health or bad choices.

    3. If Dayton wins and raises taxes on joint filers making more than 150,000, it is only the income OVER 150,000–and with itemized deductions and personal exemptions, a couple making 170,000 would probably come UNDER the 150,000 taxable income–so no additional taxes.

    4. IF you have taxable income of, say $160,000 as a joint return–you then pay the “extra” tax on 10,000–if it were 3% that would be 300 dollars. So all the whiners are saying it is not fair that Minnesota would expect taxpayers making $160,000 kick in an extra $300. Cause it will be a job killer. Please. Stick with the facts.

    5. WIlliam, complaining that single taxpayers pay at a lower rate than those subject to a “marriage penalty” is the same old song–don’t dump that one on practical candidates that expect Minnesota to pay for the services we demand.

    6. Remember when Pawlenty took office and tried to cut costs on snow plowing? Remember how everybody complained so much we went back to the old way of actually plowing instead of trying to cut costs and leave people stranded? Then they cut other costs at MN DOT and the bridge collapsed. Oops–I am not suppose to tell anyone that just maybe paying less for maintenance could cause problems.

    7. This whining that all the people making money are going to leave the state is ridiculous. For some years Minnesota had an excise rate–a little additional rate on higher income people–until the deficit was reduced and a reserve built up–and it did not kill jobs or cause everybody to leave. There is a lot more to life than taxes. Believe me, I know.

    8. We had higher taxes and during that time Minnesota and the business community prospered. We were able to fund our schools and our needed services. It is only lately that the very wealthy have convinced lots of people that raising taxes will hurt the economy. Although it is counter intuitive, our economic environment has thrived during higher taxes–including the wealthy, who saw an unprecedented increase in their wealth.

    9. Unfortunately we have all become victims of the sound bite–call it “job killer” or whatever–and everybody takes up the call.

    10. Back to the couple that each make $85,000. I think if you have to pay $300 or $600 more because of higher taxes, so be it. I don’t understand why you think that is such a terrible price to pay to live in this state and know that then children will be able to go to school, that homeless people will get a little health care coverage and students will have a good college system where they can get training for future careers.

    11. Cutting taxes on the wealthy did not create jobs, and raising them a modest amount is not going to kill any jobs. This argument is beyond ridiculous. If businesses have business, they hire. If they can get by with fewer employees they will save their money. If we want to help businesses, we need to have an economy where, instead of transferring wealth to Wall Street loan cheats we amke a better environment for the middle claass–then their will be demand for small businesses–it is the last decades shift of wealth from the middle class to the very wealthy that destroyed our economy.

    12. Emmers plan to just not spend money is unrealistic and unsustainable. He is committed to not funding our schools and that is his plan. Funding schools is required under the constitution and we should quit trying to duck this responsibility and figure out how to make it work. Just not paying is not a choice. Emmer will keep us on the Pawlenty road to being a cold Mississippi.

    13. Horner has not fleshed out his budget and his assumptions are unrealistic.

    14. Dayton is the closest and still has a gap–but has plans on how to close it and is telling the truth–we have to pay for our government–there is no free lunch. I don’t like his idea on the Racino, but he still has my vote because he is willing to speak truth to power–that taxes have to be increased in order to increase revenue–and unlike his opponents he makes no false claim about cutting waste–as auditor he was an excellent bird dog on wasteful government spending and he will be a great leader on it as governor.

      1. Jane,

        Let me whine a couple responses:

        Everyone needs to help balance the budget. If a couple making $170,000 can pay easily pay $200 more in taxes, then it is not a ‘terrible price to pay’ for a couple making $70,000 to pay $40 more. If one can say it is not a sacrifice for the first couple, then it is just as easy to say it about the second couple. (It is even easier to sing a song about a single person making $130,000 paying a bit more, but I guess that inequity is not worthy of a real response).

        I am not ‘dumping’ on Dayton because he “…expects Minnesota to pay for the services we demand.” I’m dumping on him for NOT expecting Minnesota to pay for the services we demand.

  16. William: I disagree regarding your analysis of proportional fairness. For someone making 70,000 to pay more when the are living paycheck to paycheck while someone making 130,000 has many more extra dollars–200 or 300 to the latter is a much smaller portion of their “discretionary” spending then for someone with NO discretionary spending.

    (Someone making 70,000 probably does have some discretionary spending–but not much. I am just using the example William gave.)

    William’s analysis treats all dollars as equal–our tax system says that the first portion of your earnings goes to Social Security tax, the next portion for housing you, feeding you, clothing you and providing for your health–and that is what the personal exemptions and itemized or standard deductions are for. Those dollars are “tax free.” After that, the dollars are taxed in the federal system at the lowest rate until that bracket is full, and then progressively higher.

    So, William, you are probably right about the $40 for the 70,000 earner–but I think that already is going on with the increase in property taxes due to the failed policies of our current running-for-president governor–all of us have seen an increase in cost because of governments refusal to address our current problems.

    Note that Dayton has proposed at least 3 brackets for singles with TAXABLE INCOME OVER 130,000 and joint filers with TAXABLE INCOME OVER 150,000–with a progressive bracket taxing those with higher incomes at a higher rate and those with more than a million dollars in taxable income at the highest rate.

    Dayton is also proposing to close the snow-bird tax rules so those MInnesotans who claim residency in another state end up paying a proportionate share of Minnesota tax based on their Minnesota residency even if it is less than 183 days.

  17. P. S. WIlliam I like your whining because you bring up many good points. I am just tired of the Chicken Little Sky is Falling approach of Republicans who claim the world will end if taxes are raised. We have years of taxes going up and down and it didn’t end yet.

    I think the refusal to particiapate in paying for government services is treason. Republicans love their message that taxes are bad bad bad and we don’t really need to pay for things it is all waste waste waste–it is a popular lie.

  18. Thanks, Kathie. I just added them to my favorites (I don’t really get around that much on the web, so I appreciate the heads up!)

  19. William,

    Today’s Strib endorses Horner for governor … I guess you persuaded them. Seriously, I don’t think the Strib needed much persuading; they’ve been fawning over Horner for weeks. Horner, they say, is a serious, realistic, pragmatic, willing-to-make-hard-choices guy, who can transcend or sidestep partisan politics and get things done.

    I don’t buy it.

    Horner may indeed be a fine fellow, and I like him for proposing an unpopular but reasonable—perhaps essential—sales tax extension. But …

    1. I think Dayton proposes a better mix of “revenue enhancement” (ouch!) and spending cuts than either Horner or Emmer.

    2. For better or worse (which it is is another discussion) political parties are the vehicle through which we do government around here. As governor Horner would have a bully pulpit, but without serious party allegiance he’ll have trouble getting legislation passed.

    3. We tried the transcend-party-politics route in 1998, with Gov Ventura. Didn’t work.

    4. Horner’s long, long history in Republican politics (he was a staffer for Sen. Durenberger, for instance) raises fair questions about his recent conversion to non-partisanism.

    Politics means choosing among the available choices. I’ll vote for Dayton.

  20. I’ll vote for Dayton, also.
    Horner’s numbers continue to fall, and as much as I hate to be forced into a pragmatic based, rather than principle based vote, that is the reality of our system now.

    OK, call me crazy, but I believe Dayton’s ‘heart’ is in the right place. I am tired of politicians who are afraid to show themselves as human beings rather than vote calculators. If you think that goes against my previous statement, I don’t think so. The campaign mangers can strategize all they want; that’s their job.
    But I want the candidate to be in control of how much of his personal heart and mind he allows the public to see, before the election.

    I like candidates who allow us to see them as human beings, with the failings we all have; we can be the judge of what ‘failings’ we will accept.
    Yep… I’ll vote for Dayton.

  21. So just finished reading all the comments from top to bottom. There are some interesting “facts” being thrown around. If I may I would like to address a few that caught my eye.

    Holly in post 8 you throw out two of those facts. One is the 5 year plan to exit Afghanistan. The other is your assertion that we were “recently” in Iraq. Well lets take the Afghanistan 5 year plan. I am willing to bet you that we are still in Afghanistan well after 5 years. I too have no facts only history to come to that conclusion. Vietnam is the only place we have been in a “conflict/war” that we do not have troops. For example we still have troops in the Balken’s.

    As for the recently in Iraq statement. Perhaps you chose your words poorly or you believe that because combat troops have left we are no longer in Iraq. I am not sure of the number but I believe we are still close to 100,000 troops in country with many others in the region.

    David, I find it offensive to all the members of the military that you would call it a massacre instead of a war. It may not technically be a war, not congressional declaration, but is certainly not a massacre.

    Jane, you call the VAT tax a tax on business. I would disagree with you. Having visited Europe a number of times I have paid the VAT tax as a consumer. Like most taxes on businesses it is passed on to the consumer.

    However I do agree with you and others that the current tax system is not working. I am in favor of a flat tax with little or no deductions or a VAT/national sales tax. However it must be balance with cuts in spending across the board.

  22. Bruce; You are not agreeing with me. I did not say that the current tax system is not working. I do think it has become less progressive and I do think the AMT needs fixing.

    The VAT is collected at the business level. All business taxes are passed on in the form of price increases to consumers. This is obvious and nothing new.

    A flat tax belongs somewhere with a flat earth belief. It sounds good but is actually a way to tax the poor to enrich the wealthy.

  23. Jane, I second William in 19.2.1. If additional revenue is needed, and you make the leap that it is only needed for a short time until the economy improves, then why not just implement a surtax? Minnesota has done that in the past and it was quite effective. It allows everyone that pays any income tax to participate in resolving the budget problem.

    But, that plan does not work if you truly believe that number one, Minnesota simply needs more permanent revenue regardless of good times or bad times, and, number two, when you run out of ‘rich’ to tax with a special tax you will need a fall back position to try for even more revenue….therefore you hold back in reserve the surtax plan, and hold back on expanding sales tax. Then, if you are Dayton and happen to win in November, you can tax the ‘rich’ right now. Then the next biennium when the government gobbles up all that added revenue, you can implement one of these other plans held in reserve. Who knows, with a little bit of tweaking here and there I’m sure Minnesota could easily move into #1 in every single tax position.

  24. Jane

    My apology I inferred that you thought the current system was not working. If I understand you it merely needs some fixes. So you are right I do not agree with you. I definitely think the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

    As for flat tax it is one alternative. I am not sure it equates to the flat earth theory but to each their own. As I said I would also be willing to look at national sales tax. Both of these have pros and cons and you can make adjustments to the tax threshold to not “punish” the poor.

    As for the VAT you and I agree it is a tax that is passed on to the consumer. I believe it is collected at the consumer level like a sales tax, in the end it does not matter the consumer not the business pays it.

    Discussion is good


  25. On another election-related theme …

    The Strib’s editorial endorsing Horner for governor acknowledges that many voters may perceive voting for a third party candidate as throwing one’s vote away. Here’s their rejoinder:

    Our advice: Talk to your fellow Minnesotans in the next two weeks. Think about the obligation citizens bear to vote their consciences. And don’t let fear cause you to vote for a candidate you consider to be the second-best choice.

    As with the endorsement itself, I don’t buy it.

    The condescending tone is irritating, and the logic is worse. For better or worse (worse, actually, but that’s another discussion) we have a plurality voting system, in which we only get one chance to influence an outcome. There’s nothing “obligation”-shirking, blameworthy, or fearful in putting one’s vote where one expects it to do the most good — or avoid the most harm.

    Politics really is the art of the possible.

    1. Paul’s right on here; if the Strib wants to ‘shame’ people in to voting for only their first choice…regardless of that candidate having any chance of prevailing… then they ought to be spending a lot of ink/paper advocating for some sort of proportional voting, IRV (instant runoffvoting).

      As it is, voters are often put into the position of voting against a candidate as much as for a candidate. And the situation only becomes worse as xxxmillions of dollars are spent on campaigns.

      1. Kiffi/Paul:

        How do I know that I am wasting my vote at this time? Maybe people will talk to their fellow Minnesotans and the tide will turn. Seems to me if the logic demands we act according to polling data then you two can plan on not having to vote at all since the outcome is assured.

        And what’s wrong with ‘voting your conscience’? Better that I should vote for a person with whom I disagree more than agree? None of these guys will have a majority mandate, I think voting for Horner sends a valuable message even if loses: Get to the middle! 60 to 65% of the electorate doesn’t want your extreme solutions.

    2. William,

      I don’t believe, and didn’t mean to suggest, that there’s anything wrong with voting your conscience. On the contrary, everybody *should* vote his or her conscience — keeping in mind that one’s conscience might plausibly argue for a “strategic” vote.

      Does “logic demand that we act according to polling data”? No, if
      “act according to” means “vote with the majority”. Yes, if “act according to” means “keep the polls in mind.”

      Yes, the future is unknowable and we’re never fully certain, in the sense of mathematical proof, that a given vote would be wasted. We can only make our best-informed guess. Mine is that Horner has no realistic chance. (Take that for what it’s worth: I didn’t expect a boa-clad governor in 1998.)

      Voting for B in hopes of sending a message to A and C, even if B loses, seems to me a perfectly defensible strategy. My concern about it stems not from any high-flown, Strib-style moral posturing, but from the possibility that it could, intended or not, help elect A.

      1. Wm: very sorry for the miscommunication… I am 100% in favor of voting one’s conscience BUT I don’t think our voting system,and campaign financing process , allow us to do that except in this rationalized way: I am voting for the Democrat because the Republican is , IMO, scarily oppressive , and I can’t even consider voting independent or green, or anything else, because the percentages two weeks before the election tell me I could end up with a Republican Governor, a candidate that in my estimation MUST not win.

        Therefor, we are often put in the position of rationalizing a ‘conscientous’ vote, rather than truly voting our conscience.

  26. Ray: I don’t believe the surtax would be fair because of the lack of progressivity. I really think rich people have more money than less-rich people. No–I KNOW that people with more money have more money and it is fair to tax the wealthy at a higher level in order to achieve tax parity–those less well off have more of their income taken in property taxes, sales taxes and income taxes than those with more income. A progressive income tax is just and fair. I don’t think government just “gobbles” up the money–I really think we do have to fix roads and fund schools. And you know we have to. I don’t know why anyone buys into the “poor little rich people” arguments the republicans keep making. They are not creating jobs with their income. They are buying up real estate and taking vacations. If they were “creating jobs” they would be getting deductions for those wages and they would not be paying as much in taxes.

    1. Jane,

      Why do you assume, as #32 suggests, that a surtax couldn’t be progressive?

      Seems to me a surtax could be just as progressive as the income tax itself, or more so, depending on how a surtax would be levied. Say, for simplicity, that the state decided to raise an extra 10% in income tax. One easy way to do this would be to charge all taxpayers 10% more income tax than they’d pay otherwise. (Calculate your tax and add 10%.) People who formerly paid 10% would now pay 11%, people who pay 5% would now pay 5.5%, 2% would go to 2.2%, and so on. These new rates are arguably *more*, not less, progressive than the old ones.

      Other surtax schemes are mathematically possible, though in my view less likely and less wise. In a “flat” scheme, for instance, people formerly in the fictional 2%, 5%, and 10% brackets could be kicked up to, say, 3%, 6%, and 11%. Or new money could be raised by billing everyone a fixed amount, say $1000. That would be regressive, but it seems unlikely.

    2. Paul: Ray referred to the past surtax which was not progressive-it was an additional amount upon your calculated tax. (So it applied to all taxpayers without regard to level of income.)

      1. Jane (or Ray),

        In which year did the “past surtax” under discussion here occur? Better yet, does either of you know how, numerically) it was actually levied? As a flat percentage add-on? Or what?

      2. Jane, I join Paul in asking you (or Ray) to be more specific about the “past surtax” you’ve both referred to.

        The one thing I was able to find with a quick Google search is a bill introduced in 2009 as a “progressive surtax on individuals, estates, and trusts.” An analysis by the Minnesota Department of Revenus, available at


        offers this synopsis:

        “For taxpayers with adjusted gross income under
        $30,000, the surtax rate is 6%. For taxpayers with adjusted gross income of at least $30,000 but
        less than $80,000, the surtax rate is 8%. For taxpayers with adjusted gross income of at least
        $80,000 but less than $250,000, the surtax rate is 10%. For taxpayers with adjusted gross income
        of $250,000 or more, the surtax rate is 12%.”

  27. Paul, you are completely correct in your analysis of how a surtax has worked. It is just as progressive as our income tax is. And just like our income tax, about 40 percent of the population is not involved in paying it. That is fine with me as they are at an earning level where it doesn’t make much sense to take taxes away from them. As I have said many, many times in this venue, I am not one to cut our taxes. I think Minnesota has a system that works pretty well. Like Horner, I might tweak things somewhat. And like Horner, I have no problem increasing fees for serivces or goods that is of a personal nature.

    It sounds more like Jane is just mad at ‘rich’ people. Jane, if I’m earning well in a business and I pay $200,000 in taxes, if my tax bill goes up to $300,000 that is $100,000 less money that is disposable to me. Now maybe all the ‘rich’ people you know simply use their disposable income and “are buying up real estate and taking vacations.” But here is a different view. If I retain that $100,000 for 5 years instead of the state taking it from me, I have half a million dollars to:
    * invest in a start up company as an angel investor
    * invest in a new product and set up a manufacturing business
    * establish a foundation to support a worthwhile cause that is important to me.
    * and on and on

    These funds generate jobs….period, end of story. I know the mantra on a lot of the people you hang out with is that rich people only buy gold plated faucets, and other trinkets. That may indeed be true for some wealthy people. But without venture money, we don’t percolate ideas. Without investing in machinery and equipment, we don’t produce new things.
    Without the investments of philanthropists we have a lot of people hurting a lot more.

    You can talk all you want about people being able to deduct wages, health insurance, equipment expenses, and everything else an accountant talks about. But the bottom line is if you want to grow our economy it works well to let capital flow to where it does good things.

    1. Ray: LIke many Republicans you want to reduce the discussion to class warfare. I don’t hate rich people. I LOVE rich people. I just think it is an empty argument that raising taxes “kills jobs.”

      Our tax system has become less and less progreessive over the last 20 years rather than staying the same or becoming more progressive. Of course the argument is that the tax system is ALREADY progressive enough if you are wealthy–you are trying to protect your money–you don’t want the public to see that you are accumulating tons of wealth while they are becoming poorer and losing health insurance and there are 36 kids in the high school biology class.

      The proof is in the pudding. When tax cuts were enacted in 2001 and 2003 we did not see a flurry of job creation. Instead, over the ensuing Bush presidential term the economy lost 8 MILLION jobs and we saw our savings become worthless along with our homes.

      Business people should be able to see that the failed policies of the Republicans are NOT GOOD FOR BUSINESS. It is amazing that they continue to claim that Republicans are pro business when they have been part and parcel of the biggest economic meltdown in our countries history. I wish that Republicans were willing to admit they were wrong. Without that, you can’t trust them in office because they will continue to repeat their mistakes and drain this country of what makes it great–ability for entrepreneurs to make money.

      I agree that capital has to flow–I just know that it didn’t flow under the Republican policies and that we have seen what Pawlenty has done to our state–we need to change directions, and that means trying something different. (And we know what has worked in the past in Minnesota, and it wasn’t dismantling the government.)

    1. I love the last line: “In the Rent Is Too Damn High Party if you want to marry a shoe, I’ll marry you…” This guy only sounds nuts until you find out how much New Yorkers pay in rent!

  28. William, the “Rent is too damn high” candidate is a stitch. Thanks for sending.

    If I could vote in Northfield (we do own a house in town), I’d vote for Norm Butler for the at-large seat. I finally got my thoughts together on this after viewing the KYMN tape of the LWV candidate forum last night, too late for a letter to editor.

    The five candidates for City Council were asked if they favor proceeding with plans to develop an industrial park west of the hospital. All but one, incumbent Rhonda Pownell, expressed their opposition and/or deep reservations about it.

    Rhonda’s challenger for the at-large seat, downtown businessman Norm Butler, was the most outspoken. He questioned whether it would ever become an industrial park, given that Phase I includes hundreds of housing units and motel rooms, plus retail and office space that put it in competition with the downtown.

    The other three candidates, Suzi Nakasian in District 1 and Patrick Ganey and Dale Gehring running in District 4, echoed those sentiments. Gehring, whose business is insurance, said he did not believe the old adage, “build it and they will come.” He said the design should be to scale to the community. “Scale is key,” he said.

    I have high hopes that the makeup of the Council after the election will be an improvement. And that Northfield’s communications with the townships may change for the better in the New Year. We are, after all, one community.

  29. Barry: You asked about tax rates. I do not like to nest replies because it is difficult to find the discussion and follow it–luckily I went back and I saw that you had put in your question.

    I have been intimately familiar with taxation in the the state of Minnesota for 30 years. Unfortunately, I discarded my old Minnesota “package X” (had all of the forms each year so you could easily look up forms and instructions) and have gone to electronic forms since–so I don’t remember which years were the surtax years, but I think it may have started (or ended?) in 1987. The surtax was passed to make up for budget shortfall and expired when the shortfall was covered. It was a set rate times your tax after you had completed Minnesota taxable income and looked up your tax on the rate tables–then you multilied the result times the surtax.

    Again, my criticism of the surtax is it does not contribute to any progressive structure in the tax rates and what you have stated in your comment above (32.2.2) the surtax applies to taxable income of ONE DOLLAR and increases at taxable income of $30,000. This is not very progressive–it is definitely a “tax the poor” idea.

    I support a progressive tax structure because I think it is more fair.

    I am upset that the discussion continues to be that some meany is going to tax the rich or that Democrats hate rich people or that Democrats are job killers. These are all code words so Republicans do not have to discuss real policies and real problems.

    Unfortunately, too many of the electorate are real happy to embrace the empty words of the Republicans who claim that they have the key to not raising taxes–and it is all the fault of a spendthrift government and wasteful state agencies. That is what everyone wants to hear–they do not want to hear the truth. That if we do not invest in our infrastructure and schools our bridges will fall down, our roads will crumble, and our children will have a crappy education. And our business environment will continue to deteriorate as it has done under the national Bush administration and the state Pawlenty administration.

    We should be discussing the important issues of how we are going to pay for the infrastructure and education we NEED and whether that should be collected in property taxes or income taxes or sales taxes. It is certainly valid to discuss the rates and how it should be paid.

    And I happen to think one of the best ways to tax is on income and that it is fair to tax people with lots of income lots more than people with a little bit of income. If you want to understand my reasonaing, I can explain it again.

    I think sales tax is regressive because IT IS. Poor people spend 100% of their income on housing and food and clothing and gas and insurance. So if you tax everything you are raising the tax on 100% of their income. Rich people, on the other hand, spend only a portion of their income, so they only pay sales tax on a portion of their income. I don’t think that is a fair way to tax.

    The state of Minnesota decided that the sales tax is fair if they exclude necessities like food and clothing. There is a lot of discusison as to whether that is good policy. I think it is an interesting discussion. Minnesota gets most of its tax revenue from income and property taxes, and then sales tax. Florida gets most of its revenue from sales tax and does not have an income tax. If we want to discuss what is better policy, great. Have at it.

    I am sick of hearing politicians promissing not to tax–like Pawlenty and now Emmer–that is like a promise to ruin our state and destroy our economy–and that is exactly what has happened and what is continuing to happen.

    We can not get out of this economic disaster without a great deal of effort and it is going to be a lot of hard work and real money. None of this will be cheap. We need to quit looking for the easy answer–and start facing the reality of how we are going to pay for this.

  30. Jane, I’m not following you. When you say:
    “Poor people spend 100% of their income on housing and food and clothing and gas and insurance.”
    None of these things have sales tax applied in Minnesota.

    And I don’t get your problems with a surtax. The way we have used the surtax it is progressive….as you actually explained. If you figure your Minnesota tax and don’t owe any, then you don’t owe a surtax. If you figure your tax and owe $1,000 then you multiply that by the surtax rate. If you figure your tax and owe $10,000 then you multiply that by the surtax rate. It seems to me, as Paul Zorn pointed out, the surtax is just as progressive as our income tax rates which are totally progressive.

    1. Yes, the Minnesota surtax if applied to current tax is as progressive as the Minnesota income tax, which isn’t really progressive, and the proposed surtax cited by Barry is not progressive at all.

      If the sales tax base is brodened to include clothing and food, (Horner proposal) then the sales tax is NOT progressive. Regardless, if poor people buy batteries and toilet paper and cleaning supplies they are paying tax on a higher percentage of their income then rich people.

      I actually like the surtax I just think it should be 1. temporary and 2. progressive.

  31. Jane…

    If anyone is guilty of class warfare it is Dayton. His revenue proposal is based on a tax that effects 10% of taxpayers. I think the Strib got it right…Everyone in Minnesota needs to be part of the solution. Ray and Paul are correct, a surtax would be progressive and it is fair.

    No one in this discussion is suggesting that the budget should be balanced without revenue increases. I think most people also believe that spending can be cut as well. But Dayton’s proposed cuts are miniscule. Great Britain just announced that their budget would be reduced by 19% and 500,000 government jobs eliminated. We need to make realistic adjustments now to avoid such severe measures in the future.

    1. William, I’ve heard Dayton talk about this, and it looks like he’s been studying State and Local Effective Tax Rates (ETR). Currently the ETR for the upper decile income level is about 10%. The ETR for the next 8 deciles is about 12%. (All this information is in the incidence report, by the way) To Dayton a raise in the income tax rate of the upper decile would actually help to bring them in line with the ETR of the majority of Minnesotans. He would argue that isn’t class warfare, but whether you agree with the argument or not is up to the individual.

      Regarding comparisons to the UK, at the state level the requirement to pass a balanced budget should keep changes from ever appearing that draconian. Making adjustments every couple of years rather than, say, every 10 or 20 years minimizes the likelihood of the adjustments becoming major. But at the federal level…well, to be honest I don’t think anyone, from any part of the political spectrum, is serious about either increasing revenues or cutting spending. What makes me think that way? Well, since 2000 nearly all the growth in the federal government has been in the areas of national defense or related fields (DoD, DHS, VA, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc, etc, ad nauseum). And yet, when the president, the congress, or any other political yahoo with a microphone and a room temperature IQ start talking about cutting spending they IMMEDIATELY excempt all the agencies and departments I just listed! At least the British had the intestinal fortitude to put everything on the table. Until we do the same, budget cutting at the federal level will be more eyewash than substance.

      By the way, most of those dollars from the expansion of the federal government in the last decade went to contractors (for example, the number of civil servants was up 54,000 since 2002 to 1.9 million workers, while the number of contractors swelled by 2.5 million). You know who has good lobbyists? Defense contractors. You know who donates a lot of money to political campaigns? Yeap, defense contractors. I’m betting they’ll continue to pull out all the stops to make sure the federal trough stays full.

      1. I’m not sure I totally agree with the ETR argument. For example, it makes assumptions about how much sales tax is paid by households in any particular ‘quintile’. How does the department of revenue know what any individual pays in sales tax? If they can’t tell me what I have bought how can they tell me what I have paid in sales tax? A middle quintile household (incomes between 58k and 74k) supposedly pay 2.6% of income in sales tax, while the top quintile (households with over 137k of income) supposedly pay 1.5%. So someone making 137k paid $2000 in sales tax while the person making 74k paid $1860? I guess the rich are just like you and me…they don’t even buy more stuff or more expensive stuff.

        The department of revenue ETR also says that residential property taxes cost households in that middle quintile 3.5% of income while those in the top quintile pay only 1.6% of income in property tax. So the guy making 74k pays $2600 property tax while the guy making 137k pays $2190??? I thought the point of being rich was to live in a nicer house, not one that is worth less.

        Ok…I have used extreme examples from the top income range of one quintile and the bottom of another. Not quite a fair comparison…still the figures are what they are. I question the value of the ETR when it is this easy to show valid examples that seem to make no sense.

  32. Well, this is in response to all of you who are fighting over how progressive or regressive Minnesota (or Federal, for that matter) taxes are. The fact that this is even a subject of disagreement points out the biggest flaw in our tax system, which is that it is a byzantine labyrinth of codes (33K pages in the federal version) that is chock full of special gifts (aka earmarks by another name) to powerful lobbies (like unions, businesses etc.). The people who cry out for tax reform, especially the “flat taxers” are really much more about reducing the complexity down to transparency. I suspect that a 15 page code that included a nicely progressive rate would meet their approval nicely. If we are lucky in this next election we will find ourselves where Americans seem to enjoy being, with the executive branch in one party’s hands and the legislature in the other’s.

    As for purely local elections. Next post.

  33. I have long compared the “build it and they will come” mentality of small town government to pyramid schemes. Like in the Music Man (or the great Simpson’s parody, “Marge vs. the Monorail”), the glitz and glitter catches the eye, but the cold numbers often reveal the scheme for what it is … a way for speculators to make money while the local taxpayers get left paying the bills. There is little evidence that small towns have the resilience to grow their way out of trouble, and as we face a future with less and less support from up north or out east, we should be very cautious indeed about bonding for infrastructure extensions. If crafty business people with their access to power are not willing to build here because it is too expensive, why should we expect the city’s taxpayers to want to make that investment?

    The old models of growth based on cheap energy (oil) and expansive building are about to come face to face with the need for small communities to be more resilient in the face of uncertainty. While we hear over and over about successes in the past, past performance (of the economic models) is no guarantee of future returns. The city of Dundas came close to being in trouble with their bet on Bridgewater Heights (if not actually in trouble). Northfield has its 500+ acres in the “Northwest Territories” with no way to fund infrastructure. Conservative thinking suggests that the cities should proceed with caution. The risk-takers amongst us are willing to place bets at the tables using tax payer money (other people’s money) but a full accounting (total cost of development) analysis might show us to be better off not bonding with taxpayer backing to pay for the infrastructure to make these sites “shovel ready”.

    The candidates for local offices (Northfield and Dundas) who are most conservative about not placing bets with the public’s tax money are the ones I would recommend the voters support.

  34. All,

    Our discussion of progressivity or lack thereof in taxation seems to have gotten a bit snagged on the word “progressive”, which some of us seem to use differently from others.

    A tax is “progressive” if people with higher incomes pay in at higher rates . In this mathematical sense the Minnesota income tax, the US federal income tax, the income surtax formerly levied in Minnesota, the surtax proposed in the document pointed to by Barry, and virtually every other income-sensitive tax are progressive.

    Less formally, “progressive” might be used to describe any plan or policy that advances a goal desired by the speaker. If one’s goal is that earners under $30K should pay no surtax at all, then any plan without this property could perhaps be called not progressive — but at the risk of confusion over the usual meaning of words.

    Whether a given tax structure is (by any definition) too progressive, not progressive enough, or just right is another good — but different — question. Whether a given structure is “fair” is still another question. Conflating these different things just muddies the water.

  35. Exactly, Paul. Dayton is proposing a plan that he believes is more progressive as it raises taxes from current levels by adding three income tiers at PROGRESSIVELY higher rates–so currently the married joint rate is 5.35% on the first $33,280 plus 7.05% on from 33281 to $132,220 and 7.85% on everything over $132,220.

    Dayton would add another 3 tiers for over $150,000 and maxing the percentage on anything over one million dollars. This makes the tax rates MORE progressive than just adding a surtax on the current 3 tiers–right now someone making 900,000 is paying at the same rate as the guy making 132221 on each incremental dollar.

  36. As an aside on progressive taxes, can anyone comment on the original intent of the Federal tax system (pre-income taxes)? Specifically, there is a fascinating quote that roughly states that democracies can only flourish as long as people cannot vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. I see the underlying logic in the quote, though there is pretty good evidence that it is either an unsubstantiated aphorism at best, or a deliberate lie at worst. In either case, I have read that the original intent of the Constitution was to tax wealth (not income). The logic is that for democracy to succeed we need a system to prevent the pooling of wealth in dynastic families (the Bushes and the Kennedy’s come to mind as good examples of why you don’t want that accumulation to occur).

    Taxing wealth (net value) rather than income would seem to be a reasonable way to accomplish this. But we have lost that battle (11th amendment).

      1. Phil…If wealth was taxed Dayton would be paying a whole lot more in taxes than the 30k he paid in state and federal income tax in 2009. This on income of $173,000, for which he did not work, but collected interest, dividends and capital gains distributions. I think it’s safe to say that this income is less than 1% of the value of his trust fund (maybe 1/10 of one percent)…I mean we’re talking about TARGET. But he pays nothing on that money stashed away and obviously growing every year. But yet he suggests that it is ‘fair’ to increase taxes on ‘wealthy’ households making more than $150,000 a year.

        I am tired of silver spoon liberals who’ve got theirs, but are so quick to propose taxes on people who are just starting to get some for themselves. If he wants ‘fair’, why not propose a cut in everyone’s income tax and a tax on wealth to compensate.

      2. William, you’re not going to get an argument from me on the idea of taxing wealth versus income! I’m afraid that the people you would get arguments from are predominately those on the other side of the political spectrum…except for perhaps folks like Dayton. There is one tax that I can think of on wealth: the estate tax. And we all know what a political football that tax is. It just helps support my opinion that talking about taxing wealth will be you called a class warrior.

        Of course taxing wealth as opposed to income is also in my self-interest. I’m sure being underwater on my mortgage (as are most people that bought a home in the last 5 years) will work to my advantage. That may have some affect on my opinion…let me win the lottery and I might have to change my mind!

  37. Bruce,

    Concerning this:

    … I have read that the original intent of the Constitution was to tax wealth (not income).

    I’m no historian, but if Wikipedia’s right, the Feds’ main source of income until WWI was tariffs. The Constitution’s original language required that any “direct” tax, like an income tax, be apportioned among the states according to their population.

    This appears to have so unworkable a requirement, especially as regards property taxes, that the 16th amendment, ratified in 1913, was passed to address the problem, and in particular to make it possible to tax property (= wealth, more or less…) as well as income. So, while it’s unclear to me what the Original Intenders had in mind about wealth vs. income, they seem to have made it harder than necessary to tax property.

  38. Can we get back to discussing candidates? Election is just a few days away! Anybody else on this blog favor Norm Butler over Rhonda Pownell for Council at-large? How about school board? I go for incumbents Berthelsen and Kari Nelson and Fossum (we get three out of five).

    There’s a forum tomorrow morning Saturday for Minnesota House and Senate seats plus county commissioner, maybe. We need to keep Galen Malecha.

  39. Stephanie–

    Re: School board–it seems to me that no matter whom you vote for, you are going to end up with a board that simply rubber stamps the recommendations of Dr. Richardson. And while some of his ideas are good ones, his interests are in budget rather than curriculum, and he refuses to hold his staff (principals or teachers) accountable for anything.

    In tight budget times, we have to ensure that each school district employee is giving, well, 90%. And we need to have procedures in place when they don’t to correct it.

    We don’t, and with this school board, we won’t.

    It’s pretty depressing, but I’m thinking of not voting in that race at all. It’ll come down to who is perceived as being the most genial candidate, it seems like.

  40. William,

    In 38.1.1 you question the logic of Estimated Tax Rate (ETR) calculations, citing (i) the fact that ETR numbers are based on groups (income quintiles, in this case) rather than individuals, and (ii) some sample sales tax incidence calculations based on quintile averages.

    With respect, I’m unconvinced.

    Concerning (i): Sure, individuals within a group behave differently from each other — that’s why it makes good mathematical and practical sense to average (in various ways) over groups. Refusing to do so would doom a lot of useful fields, like epidemiology, demography, insurance, the RBI in baseball, actuarial science, and risk analysis.

    Concerning (ii): You describe your own calculation as extreme, and so it is. A more fundamental glitch is in expecting group statistics to apply to (not randomly selected) individuals. They don’t.

    If you think that the ETR numbers are somehow statistically in error, so be it, but please defend such an assertion. As it stands, your beef seems to be with probability and statistics themselves—fields that have stood up pretty well over the last few centuries.

  41. Paul…I take exception with ETR data based on their assumptions about spending patterns, pricing patterns, and property ownership. I also question the fact that tax benefits from means tested programs do not seem to be included. Statistics have errors, assumptions based on statistics have greater errors. But I am not against the use of statistics.

    I don’t object to the department of revenue compiling such statistics and showing trends based on year over year comparisons of these statistics consistently applied. So, perhaps i shouldn’t have based an objection on the detail (although details would seem important when we are talking about ETR differences of 1 to 1 1/2 percent), but on the way they are used to ‘prove’ taxation inequality. Specifically that the poor and middle class are paying a higher percentage of income in taxes than the ‘rich’.

    How can an ETR prove tax inequality when federal taxes are not included? We don’t pay MN tax in a vacuum. The federal ETR for the middle quintile is 14.2% (including payroll taxes). The federal ETR for the top quintile is 24%, and for the top 1% of earners it is 31%. Add those numbers to the MN ETR and the ‘proof’ that the poor and middle class pay a higher ETR is not so clear.

    Maybe Mn taxes are trending toward greater inequality. On the other hand, maybe they are helping to compensate for a federal system that collects the vast majority of funds from upper income levels while reducing the tax burden on the middle class.

    1. William,

      If I read you right, your main beef with ETR calculations is that they don’t tell the whole story about the big tax picture, which includes federal income tax and other things.

      Granted — statistics abuse is always a bad thing. But IMO the tax incidence study (here’s a link to an article about it, and on to the study itself)


      is really quite interesting, and certainly relevant to any discussion (like ours) about Minnesota’s tax structure. (The executive summary starts around the 15th page.)

      Yes, the study involves aggregation and estimates, and so doesn’t (and doesn’t pretend to) apply perfectly to individuals. And — as one would expect of a study on Minnesota taxes, this one doesn’t address federal tax incidence.

      There’s a lot here for any numbers geek to enjoy, and IMO the conclusion that state and local tax incidence is now at least mildly regressive in Minnesota is compelling. The study asserts, too, that regressivity increased significantly from 2004 to 2006.

      There’s something here for every persuasion. The numbers suggest, if I read them right, that current Minnesota business taxes find their way back to individual taxpayers (e.g., through higher prices) and end up contributing to regressivity . Surprised, anybody?

  42. Paul…here’s my question. Is it unfair for the MN ETR to be skewed by 1% in one direction, when the federal ETR is skewed by 10 to 15% in the other direction? I don’t think MN Revenue is abusing statistics by pointing out trends in the state and local ETR. I think arguments that neglect to consider total ETR abuse statistics.

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