Posted By admin on March 19, 2011
Posted By admin on March 16, 2011
Local Government Aid Helped Keep Property Taxes From Rising
Minnesota historically has been a state that has offset property tax increases by assisting counties, cities and towns through the Local Government Aid (LGA) programs. The atmosphere has been altered in the last twenty years, as budget cuts in state government have been resulting in decreased funding of LGA. Why has this been happening? What are the effects?
In 2000 Tim Pawlenty was elected on promises of no new taxes (while “user fees” were strangely exempted from his promise.) A Republican House of Representatives in the state legislature helped him keep those promises. Pawlenty, now running for president as a darling of the conservatives who love tax cuts but care about little else, was able to convince many Minnesotans that the only thing that needed to be done to maintain such a policy was to cut waste from government and cut services to people who really didn’t deserve those services.
Health services for the vulnerable were cut. Social services and education were cut. LGA was cut, not only to big cities such as Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth; but to smaller cities such as Fergus Falls.
Tim Pawlenty borrowed from the future of education by withholding payments to local school districts in order to balance the state budget, forcing schools to do without necessary increases. In the years that he had a friendly House of Representatives, he refused to face the fact that someday his cuts would lead to a situation we face today.
He promised that a more friendly business environment would bring jobs, jobs, jobs to Minnesota and we would be able to continue our standard of living without raising taxes. But now we are still facing a five billion dollar budget hole and he is off chasing delegates in New Hampshire and Iowa, bragging about how he held the line on revenues and Minnesota. He is seeking Koch Brother Dollars to fund his political ambitions.
He is not telling the truth about the economic health of Minnesota’s cities and towns. What is happening in Fergus Falls?
“We have not been increasing our levies because of our aid cuts,” Sonmor stated. In fact, since the city only increased its 2011 tax levy by $15,000 and saw its economy boosted last year by several commercial ventures, property taxes are actually set to decrease for most city property owners this year.
Still, Sonmor said, money is tight and it’s getting tighter. In 2000, the city made about $7.6 million in revenue from property taxes, state aid and other sources. Last year, that number was about $9.6 million, but costs in doing business have risen much faster than revenue has.
“Everything costs more today,” Fergus Falls Finance Director Bill Sonmor said. “We have cut throughout the city.” While the city tries to keep those cuts less noticeable, it still puts a strain on doing business.
Sonmor said a particular area where belt tightening has occurred is in city staff. Many retirements have not been filled by new employees in positions ranging from the police department to city hall to public maintenance workers. Those who are left have to shoulder the burdens of the people who have not been replaced.
“Throughout the city, we’re definitely working with a smaller staff,” he commented.
Here in St. Paul, residents have been noticing that potholes are opening up on city streets faster than the city can fill them. With the volatile winter of 2010 creating problems on our roads that would be hard to keep up with even in years with a healthy city budget, the mayor and the city council have been struggling to keep property taxes under control. Both the snow clearing and the road maintenance have been taking priority in an era of budget cutting for standard and normal services.
What sorts of services does St. Paul provide for the residents using LGA and property tax money? The most visible services are fire and police protection. Our public safety is secured by these brave men and women, but their departments are facing rising costs while the city is being constrained by revenue.
On the East Side of St. Paul, Lake Phalen is a beautiful example of what we can do as a city in conjunction with a regional water council. The weeds are harvested to keep the water clean, and the shores have been beautified with natural plants that protect the lake from fertilizer runoff. None of what has been done has been free, but it has been worth it as the bike ways and walkways and beach and volleyball and picnic grounds make Lake Phalen a popular spot for relaxation and even weddings.
If budget cuts take money from the city, the mayor and the council may have to look at allowing the park to deteriorate in hopes of maintaining the police, fire protection, street lighting and road maintenance at what levels can be maintained with reduced monies.
Sure, people like the idea of not paying taxes. Nobody actually likes paying taxes, least of all the working class who populate the East Side and make it a great place to live. It is easy politics for the Republicans to say that they can erase a five billion dollar shortfall merely by cutting waste and eliminating services for undeserving Minnesotans (such as children and the disabled.) They say that they can cut taxes for wealthy corporations at the same time, promising job creation by companies who are waiting to hire but just need that little added incentive of not paying taxes on the additional profits they take from the productivity of their laborers.
A decade of cutting taxes, or holding the line on taxes, has not improved Minnesota. We are losing ground to other states, and if we don’t reassess the sort of state we want to have and consider enhancing revenues from the people who can afford to pay, then we will be known as the Mississippi of the North. We will have weaker education opportunities for our kids, our roads will deteriorate and businesses will no longer look to Minnesota as a great place to hire an educated and innovative labor force.
We can’t be great and cheap at the same time. Opportunity costs, and it takes investment. We can be a great state. We have been proving it for decades. Corporations have known that Minnesota has been a leader in enabling success without us having to yield to the easy solutions of tax cut after tax cut, until Pawlenty’s emulation of Reaganomics caused us to fall behind.
Fortunately, Tim Pawlenty is no longer Minnesota’s problem. We have a governor who understands true business needs in Mark Dayton, while also recognizing that a state can’t prosper without a solid infrastructure. Cities can’t continue to cut services. With reduced LGA, they will have to start raising taxes in order to keep up with The Red Queen’s dictum that in order to maintain position you need to run twice as fast.
We need to face economic facts, Minnnesota. Please help me to support Mark Dayton’s efforts to close the deficit without unduly burdening the cities, the schools and the vulnerable in our state.
We need Local Government Aid, but we can’t maintain it by cutting and cutting and cutting. There is only so much that can be cut before cities are damaged beyond the point that safety can be maintained.
Or, property taxes will have to be raised in order to maintain cops, firefighters, schools, streets and the people who inspect apartments to make sure that they are safe.
Posted By admin on February 18, 2011
If we want to be continue to race to the bottom of the heap in delivering services to our citizens, perhaps we should follow the advice of pundits who imagine that only tax levels are important for commerce. We could play the game in the way that Leo Pusarti wants to play it. JHere he quotes Tim, (unsourced:)
My representative, Steve Gottwalt, sent this gem along…
from Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL- St. Paul) . . .
“Taxes are just a cost of doing business,” Mahoney said. “If you’re going to be ill, you’d rather be ill in Minnesota. We have a more high-service government than in Texas.”
Mr Gottwalt added (emphases mine),
“Mahoney and the DFL like high taxes — they firmly believe higher levels of government spending result in a higher standard of living. He obviously has not checked the examples around the country. Take Maine and New Hampshire, for instance. One has reduced government; the other has grown it. Guess which one is doing better economically? We need lawmakers willing to embrace the reality that state government is living beyond its means, making promises it cannot keep with money it does not have — and that does not lead to a better Minnesota. We need lawmakers with the wisdom and foresight to focus on sustainable outcomes, not just more spending. Minnesota’s business and regulatory climate places it near dead
last in the nation. That’s costing Minnesota jobs, prosperity and revenues.
It may be that the reason that we are working on allocating money that we don’t have is that our former governor refused to negotiate in good faith with the legislature to find reasonable revenue resources to pay for the things that Minnesotans have traditionally valued. We want good education, we want good transportation infrastructure, we want good health care options, we want investment in science and technology. We want all of these things because not only do they make the state more attractive to our current residents but also to businesses looking for places to headquarter.
It is beyond naive to think that in a competitive environment, businesses only look towards the tax rates to determine where to locate their headquarters. Businesses, at least smart ones, look at a complete business climate and enviroment. They want to know that the people that they depend on to make their businesses successful are educated. They want to know that their employees can get to work over a transportation system that provides options and most importantly on roads that are well-maintained. They want to know that their employees have access to excellent health care so that work productivity is not unnecessarily lost because of inadequate treatment options when their human employees get sick.
None of this is free. None of this can be properly run cheaply.
The Republicans swept to power giving Minnesotans the impression that the 6 billion dollar deficit gap can be closed by cutting programs and waste; but their plans, like the plans of the Tea Party that thinks it can do the same in the U.S. Congress are sure keys to cutting off an economy that is being rebuilt from a disaster caused by decades of Reaganomics policies. Their solutions are going to kill jobs in Minnesota.
The Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce continues to run commercials on local radio encouraging businesses to a low-tax city. But even after a long ad campaign, they are finding that the swarm across our western border of job-creating business just isn’t happening.
There is one way to play the game. Starve your team, so that by saving money your players will be inspired to win. The other way is to provide them with the tools they need to be successful.
It calls for investment.
The Republicans don’t want to invest. Who is clueless?
Posted By admin on December 6, 2009
Mike Wrote this for Quiche Moraine
Minnesota doesn’t hold a spring presidential primary, as other states do. Minnesota’s primary election is in the fall, usually forty-five days before the election, and so it wouldn’t make sense to decide on the ballot for president that late. In place of the presidential primaries, Minnesota uses a “straw poll” from the votes of caucus attendees, and it is not as formal as an official election. The person who chooses to vote simply fills out a small ballot, and the results are counted and the ballots destroyed. The results are then called in to the party headquarters, and from that vote, the number of delegates assigned for each candidate to the national convention are determined. It’s that simple; now, go caucus! Right?
District 67 will caucus at Harding High School on Tuesday, February 2, 2010. Starts at 7:00 p.m. and runs until 9:00 p.m.
Posted By admin on June 18, 2009
The Governor Kills The Program
Tim Pawlenty cut many necessary programs with his Unallotment Pen, and Minnesotans will have to struggle with reductions in public services. It’s going to be a tough time for many vulnerable residents of Minnesota, including those who have already been carrying the weight of his political ambitions. The legislature will be looking at ways to fix these problems sensibly and with an eye to economic recovery. There is a great deal of work to be done to ensure that the state will meet our residents’ needs and return to fiscal sanity.
As your Representative, I appreciate your contributions to the campaign. Your generosity has made possible my work for you in session and throughout the year. I know that many of you have taken advantage of the Political Campaign Refund to help fund the campaign. Unfortunately, the program is one of the items that the governor “unfunded” and it will no longer continue past June 30th of this year.
This is your opportunity to donate money to my campaign and still get your money back from the State of Minnesota. Please hurry, as the deadline is fast approaching and I want you to be able to take advantage of the program. You will still have until April 2010 to file your claim for a refund of up to $50.00 per person ($100 per married couple,) but we need to receive your donation by June 30th.
Please see our Contributions page for details on how to take care of this securely.
Click this button for an electronic donation. We will send your PCR form to you as soon as we receive your donation:
Thank you for all of your support!
Posted By admin on May 23, 2009
Why We Must Step up our Efforts for 2010
Governor Tim Pawlenty blames the Legislature and the Senate for not giving into his demands for the 2009 session to balance the budget in a way that benefits Minnesota. Instead, he refused to negotiate and held onto a foolhardy “No New Taxes Pledge,” saving his negotiation skills for a flurry of vetoes after the end of the session. By threatening to “Unallot” spending for needed medical and social services in Minnesota, he sent a signal to the citizens of our state that he is more interested in pleasing his potential campaign donors for his presumed presidential/vice presidential campaign in 2012.
While Pawlenty looks to the future, he uses the tools of the past: Cut, slash and burn and borrow. The 2009 portion of the Legislative Session has ended, with a budget we were forced to pass at the last minute before adjournment. Our leadership in the House and Senate had invited the governor many times to forge a compromise between our differences. It could have been something all Minnesotans could have lived with, even if not entirely happy with it.
The purpose of our bills, agreed on by both the Senate and the House, was to address taxation disparities which favor the rich over the working class and the poor, while continuing as many of the state’s needs for health care, local government assistance and education. Yes, even in our budget deal there were more cuts than we wanted. Yet we faced them and worked to minimize their effects on you, our constituents.
Pawlenty turned a deaf ear to the desires and wants of the people of Minnesota to invest wisely in our future and pulled out his red pen to write “Veto! Veto! Veto!” and to move the state its from its progressive leadership to the status of such business and education “powerhouse” states as Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
In 2010, we don’t know if The Man With The Red Pen will be running again to be our governor, or if he will be foregoing this race to follow his true ambition for national office. It doesn’t matter. We need to pour our efforts into electing a governor from the DFL. The people of Minnesota have elected a divided leadership between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch; but in the hopes that we could together find solutions to our mounting problems. Instead they see that the governor had no such intentions.
We have many exciting candidates for the DFL choice to run for governor. I have endorsed Matt Entenza, but whoever we as the DFL place on the ticket Minnesota will win by electing a serious governor who cares about our state and our economic recovery. In 2010,, this is the race that matters (as well as my own, of course.)
Posted By admin on May 21, 2009
We Need to Do More
Memorial Day for most of us is a long weekend and a day away from work. It is a day of sales for those who work in car dealerships and furniture stores, trying to meet the month’s quota with a final blitz of discounts and cash back offers.
It’s an extra day at the cabin, spending time with your buddies and family trying to find the perfect spot on a Monday morning where the walleyes and crappies are biting.
It’s also a day to think about war and why we fight and why we never seem to achieve peaceful, diplomatic long-term solutions to the problems that lead to the massive violence that takes our young men and women away from us. Our defenders volunteer for various reasons, but all of them end up supporting our freedoms and rights whether directly or indirectly. They support the concept of democracy, but they also prevent foreign invaders from taking our shores.
We have vets that may not have died overseas, but bring the war back with them and can never shake it. Memorial Day is a day we should pause and reflect and thank those who have faced enemy fire and taken a hit from us. We should remember those who died in battle and at home, suffering the long-term effects of war.
I feel awkward saying “Happy Memorial Day” because it is not a happy occasion. Families are missing their fathers, mother, brothers, sisters, friends and children. It is a time to reflect on what we have as a nation, and to honor them. It is also a time to remember that we need to show our support and honor to those they leave behind. Thank a vet on Memorial Day, and thank a family.
Posted By admin on May 15, 2009
There is No Need to Worry, Right?
Tim Pawlenty has just decided that he can do alone with a few broad strokes of his pen and behind closed doors, what they legislature has been working on since January. The Legislature and the Senate have been holding open door meetings for you so that you can have your input into the budget. And we have appreciated your input.
Unfortunately, we were faced with the reality in Minnesota of what will happen with draconian cuts in essential services and investments. Tim Pawlenty is apparently more interested in moving into Barack Obama’s current quarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, or at the least into Blair House, in 2013. So, rather than face our reality, he is doing what he sees is going to lead him more towards Washington. He is following the lead of the New National Party of No, with the big buck fund-raising power of the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
The videos I have been putting up over the last few days are the best way that I know how to illustrate what is happening at the close of the legislature.
Please call the numbers and tell Tim Pawlenty that he needs to be more responsible to Minnesota’s future than he does his own.
Posted By admin on May 15, 2009
Real World Issues
Minnesotans testify that the Governor’s proposed cuts would hurt the health of our hospitals, health care worker and the lives of millions of Minnesotans who depend on quality care.
Posted By admin on May 14, 2009
Slash And Burn
Governor Pawlenty is going to slash and burn the future of Minnesota with his plan to use line item veto to balance the budget. Call the governor and tell them that his hard line on revenue (so that he can raise righ-wing campaign funds for his 2012 presidential campaign,) are taking Minnesota backwards.
Tim Mahoney has represented the East Side of St.Paul since 1998. He is now chair of the Bioscience and Workforce Development Policy and Oversight Division Committee; and a member of the Capital Investment Finance Division Committee, the Civil Justice Committee, the Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division Committee, Labor and Consumer Protection Division Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. Please feel free to contact me.