Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk isn’t having fun, thanks in large part to Senate Republicans and Senate Minority Leader David Hann. Sen. Bakk is insisting that Republicans move into Bakk’s Palace, the building Sen. Bakk shoved down taxpayers’ throats in the 2013 Tax Bill in the dead of night the last weekend of session without going through the committee process. It didn’t go through the committee process intentionally because Bakk didn’t want it to be scrutinized by anyone.

Now, Sen. Bakk is attempting to play hardball, insisting that “other state entities need Republicans’ current quarters in the State Office Building.” Senate Minority Leader Hann isn’t buying, saying “if that’s the case, Bakk should say who is it and when they’re going to move, ‘because that’s all news to us.'”

What’s especially laughable is that Bakk calls their refusal to move “short-term political gamesmanship.” The truth is that Sen. Bakk doesn’t like it when GOP legislators shine the spotlight on Bakk’s Palace, my nickname for the new Senate Building. Bakk doesn’t like the attention because he’s trying to maintain his majority through the 2016 election. When House Republicans highlighted the House DFL’s support for Bakk’s Palace, they lost their majority.

When people take a look at Bakk’s Palace, Republicans will remind them that Democrats voted to raise taxes on citizens, which paid for the $90,000,000 building. They’ll also remind citizens that the DFL also voted to dramatically raise the pay of Gov. Dayton’s commissioners.

Sen. Bakk should stop worrying about political gamesmanship. He should start worrying about the DFL’s legislative history since the last election. Then he should kiss his majority status goodbye.

The latest update on the Tech bonding referendum is that the school district knows exactly how much money they need to build a new Tech High School but they aren’t finished designing the building.

According to Barclay Carriar, a 57-year-old adviser with Ameriprise Financial and co-chair of Neighbors for School Excellence, “What a lot of them don’t recognize is, with the cost of designing a building, 80 percent of it isn’t going to be designed until after the referendum. And the plans we’ve got now are still tentative.”

Picture this. Picture a homebuilder just starting out going into a bank and telling the loan officer that he wants to borrow $250,000 to build a home. The first thing that loan officer will do is ask about how big the house is, whether the contractor already has a buyer, etc. Imagine the contractor telling the loan officer that he’s got a good lead on someone who might buy the home but that he hasn’t had someone draw up the blueprints.

That contractor’s interview would end abruptly. This referendum should end quickly, too. This argument is absurd:

The group also points out that homeowners in the district already pay lower taxes than almost every other district in the immediate area. St. Cloud’s annual school tax expense on a $150,000 home is $521. The other metro area districts of Sauk Rapids-Rice ($741), Sartell-St. Stephen ($686) and Rocori ($627) all are higher. Even with passage of the referendum, St. Cloud taxes would rise to $739, still just below Sauk Rapids-Rice…

My first reaction is “So what?” If other cities want to spend more, that’s their decision. I’ve never been a fan of keeping up with the Joneses. If you want to win my vote, explain with specificity how spending additional money will improve the students’ learning experience.

Telling me that ‘we must invest in education’ is fluff. It isn’t a serious argument.

Before getting into the heart of this post, and in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve called Andy Aplikowski friend for most of my blogging life, which started in November, 2004. I first met Andy when he was blogging at Kennedy vs. the Machine, which was in 2006. That means that I’m definitely biased for Andy.

With that said, it’s time to get to the heart of the matter. Andy is running to replace Branden Petersen as the senator representing District 35. As with all districts and candidates, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and the Americans for Tax Reform have asked candidates to sign their “Taxpayer Protection Pledges.” Last night, the Aplikowski for Senate campaign issued this statement:

“We don’t have a revenue problem in Minnesota, we have a priority problem. The reason Minnesota is climbing to the top of the list of highest taxed states is because of our addiction to spending. That is why I was the first candidate to have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledges with both the Americans for Tax Reform and the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. We must be honest with Minnesotans about long-term sustainable budgeting solutions instead of the spend and tax policies that have grown the state budget 30 percent in the last 5 years.”

Andy is right. We’re taxed too much already. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill while Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk ship money to corrupt organizations like Community Action Partnership of Minneapolis. Here’s how Community Action Partnership spent the taxpayers’ money:

Auditors blamed Community Action’s board, which includes several well-known politicians and community leaders, for a lack of oversight and for personally benefiting from $34,892 worth of activities that “do not appear to serve a business purpose, and are considered waste and abuse as defined in state policy.”

Those activities included two weekend trips, between 2011 and 2013, to Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, where board members and senior management spent $9,000 for lodging, $3,200 for food and $900 for spas. Davis defended the trips as a “small gesture on our part to offer them a moment of relaxation or entertainment. It’s not like we do this every single week of the year.”

The Andy Aplikowski that I’ve known for almost a decade would be a force for good as the taxpayers’ watchdog.

Andy didn’t stop with signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledges:

Additionally, Aplikowski signed the pledge against any new gas tax increase in the 2016 legislative session. “Whoever wins this special election will serve in 2016. Increasing the gas tax is a potential policy that may face votes in committee and even on the Senate floor. I promise to find other methods than a gas tax to deliver real transportation solutions to the district and to the state. Safe roads and bridges are not a luxury, and demanding another $300 million from drivers for one of government’s main responsibilities is unacceptable.”

I don’t have a vote in the matter. If I did, though, I’d cast it for Andy. If taxpayers want an advocate on their side, I strongly recommend they vote for Andy Aplikowski.

Last night on the Kelly File, Roger Stone tried explaining how Trump’s tax plan would be paid for. Unfortunately for him, he talked himself into a corner that there’s no getting out of. Stone insisted that Trump is a fiscal conservative, saying that Mr. Trump would offset the cost of his tax plan by cutting spending. At that point, Guy Benson highlighted Mr. Stone’s spin, saying that we should be skeptical of spending cuts coming from a guy who’s “proposing Obamacare on steroids.”

Sunday night on 60 Minutes, Trump was asked about his health care plan, at which point Mr. Trump said “I’m going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.” When Pelley pressed Mr. Trump further about who would pay for this coverage, Mr. Trump said “the government’s gonna pay for it. But we’re going to save so much money on the other side.”

The question Mr. Stone left unanswered is how a man that wants government to pay for everyone’s health care is a fiscal conservative. It’s unanswered because it isn’t possible. That’s like saying a company’s intellectual property is safe because they hired an IT guy away from the Chinese government to secure their intellectual property.

In midterm elections and presidential elections, 65 polling stations are open in St. Cloud. In this year’s off-off-year election, the St. Cloud ISD742 School Board will only open 13 polling stations. According to this St. Cloud Times article, Kevin Januszewski, executive director of business services for the St. Cloud school district, said this move is designed save on the cost of the election. What Mr. Januszewski isn’t saying is that having the election next year would eliminate the school board’s cost of the bonding referendum vote entirely. That’s because there’s a presidential election next year.

Voter participation is at its highest during presidential elections. Further, the cost to the school district drop dramatically because they don’t pay for the entire election. If costs are significantly less and voter participation is at its highest, that’s the sweet spot. Public officials are always saying that they want high voter participation rates. Here’s the opportunity to guarantee that. Why didn’t the ISD742 School Board pick 2016 for this gigantic bonding referendum vote?

Is it because they want low turnout? Apparently so. I noted in this post that voter participation from within the education community was sure to be close to 100% while voter participation from the average taxpayer will at its lowest. It’s historically been that way for decades.

To the taxpayers:

  1. Has the school district asked you for your input into this important decision?
  2. Has the school board informed you about the bonding referendum beyond vague generalities?
  3. Has the school district been upfront with you about the property tax implications for you personally?
  4. Have they explained the ramifications of this property tax increase on St. Cloud’s tax base?
  5. Has the school board explained why they’re holding this vote when voter participation is at its lowest?

Personally, the answer to those questions are no, no, no, no and no. Without answers to these important questions, I can’t support this referendum at this time. Vote no on November 3.

Allahpundit’s post about Donald Trump is essentially a report on Mr. Trump’s latest whining after getting hit with negative publicity. According to the headline of AP’s article, Trump’s attorney will sue the Club for Growth if they don’t immediately stop running a negative ad about Mr. Trump’s liberal positions.

According to AP’s post, Alan Garten, Trump’s general counsel, said “Mr. Trump does not support higher taxes. This is the very definition of libel.” Unfortunately for Mssrs. Garten and Trump, Mr. Trump recently said “that he’d lower taxes on the middle class but ‘would let people making hundreds of millions of dollars-a-year pay some tax, because right now they are paying very little tax and I think it’s outrageous.'”

In other words, Mr. Trump is threatening to sue Club for Growth for telling the truth about his position on raising taxes. Good luck peddling that with a jury. That’s if it makes it that far, which isn’t likely.

The threat of litigation is meant to distract attention from what Mr. Trump doesn’t want people to think about. With that in mind, let’s focus on what Mr. Trump doesn’t want us to focus on. I’m betting that they don’t want people focusing on Trump’s support “a one-time tax of 14.25 percent on the superwealthy 15 years ago.” In 2000, the federal government was running a massive surplus. They were on track to eliminate the debt by 2020.

At a time when the economy was humming along, creating jobs, wealth and huge surpluses, why tinker with what’s working? Despite that, that’s precisely what Trump proposed.

Mr. Trump loves portraying himself as a genius who will get America’s economy growing again. Though there’s proof that he knows how to make money for himself, there’s nothing in his past that says he knows what policies will get America’s economy growing again.

UPDATE: Trump’s whining is getting tiresome. Trump’s Twitter obsession with Megyn Kelly is beyond tiresome:

Do you ever notice that lightweight @megynkelly constantly goes after me but when I hit back it is totally sexist. She is highly overrated!

What I’ve noticed is that Megyn hasn’t complained about Trump’s attacks. She’s repeatedly said that she’s a big girl that shrugs attacks off. The same can’t be said of Trump.

He’s the poster child of thin-skinned whiners.

Simply put, Trump tweeted this to draw attention away from his pathetic substance-free replies on national security. That won’t work, Mr. Trump. Why pick a whiny reality TV host when we can pick a real commander-in-chief? That’s right. We shouldn’t.

Eric Williams’ LTE advocating for passage of the school board bonding referendum isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. For instance, Williams’ first argument to vote for the referendum is “A robust school system adds value our community. Young entrepreneurs who want to start innovative businesses need quality workers. What attracts these entrepreneurs and quality workers is a quality school system.”

I won’t dispute that a well-trained work force is an economic benefit to any community. I have multiple dispute. with the referendum. First, the school board is trying to shove a massive property tax increase down our throats without telling us a) any details about the size of the new Tech HS or b) what enrollment model they’re using to determine the size of the building.

Without knowing that, it’s impossible to say whether a $113,800,000 project is needed. That’s before considering why the school board threw in a bonding request for improved technology. That’s been paid for with the operating levy. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for that with interest tacked on. Here’s Williams’ second bullet point:

Quality schools raise the value of our homes. I would argue that it is the most important reason young families choose to live where they do. Realtors often leverage the quality of a community’s school system when they market a home to a family new to the area.

Again, it’s another generalized argument. For the sake of discussion, let’s stipulate that it’s true. Does Mr. Williams think that taxpayers want to be treated like ATMs? Wouldn’t they be more impressed with a great new facility that the district didn’t overpay for? I’m betting that taxpayers would appreciate it if the district had modern facilities and that weren’t overbuilt. Here’s Williams’ final bullet point:

I think we all agree that a quality school system is a huge attractor for young families. Selfishly, I would love to see my children and the children of my friends and neighbors who have graduated from Tech and Apollo choose to raise their families in St. Cloud. (We won’t have far to go to see our grandchildren!)

This LTE didn’t address anything of substance. It’s filled with platitudes and emotional appeals. That isn’t a justification for passing the biggest bonding referendum in St. Cloud history. It definitely isn’t a justification for passing the biggest bonding referendum in St. Cloud history without a series of townhall meetings.

Vote no on November 3.

Bill O’Reilly closes his show by saying “The spin stops here because we’re definitely looking out for you.” If I were to transfer Mr. O’Reilly’s closing statement to the St. Cloud Times, I’d have to slightly modify it to say “the spin starts here because we want the $167,000,000 referendum to pass without explaining the details about what the new Tech High School looks like.” I’ll admit that isn’t as succinct as Mr. O’Reilly’s closing. That doesn’t mean it isn’t accurate.

This LTE is long on generalities and platitudes but short on specifics, which is what voters deserve. It isn’t helpful to hear the citizen say that “As part of the community task force that researched and evaluated equitable options for our high schools, I realized the need to act now to improve our schools.” That isn’t detailed information about the size of the new high school nor does it tell taxpayers if other options were seriously considered.

This paragraph is spin:

This conversation was inspiring. The impact that improvement to our facilities will have on the entire community is why we need to vote yes. Vote yes for the future of St. Cloud education and to continue the high level of excellence in our public schools.

The worst kept secret in St. Cloud is that parents are pulling their children out of Tech HS and transferring them to Sauk Rapids-Rice HS or Rocori HS or to Sartell HS. That tells me that there are problems at Tech that can’t be solved with a new building. That tells me that a new building will raise people’s property taxes without fixing the underlying problem.

The ISD742 School Board has hid the specifics from the public. That alone is justification enough to vote no on the bonding referendum. That the school board hasn’t tried explaining what their goal is or why their proposal is the best solution indicates to me that taxpayers should vote no on the bonding referendum.

This bonding referendum is the biggest bonding referendum in the history of St. Cloud. Voters have the right to know what’s being planned and why it’s the solution to the problem.

Though I doubt it was meant as such, I’m betting that the St. Cloud Times Our View editorial is a wakeup call to taxpayers. That’s certainly the intent of this post. The Times’ Editorial Board laments the fact that “there are no yard signs, no visible campaigning, and really not much buzz about the plan.” Then it highlights the “good news” that “the group has experienced leaders and its website,, contains ample information about the history of Tech, the need to upgrade it and Apollo, and how to vote” before returning to lamenting that few people know about this website before the Times’ editorial.

Perhaps that’s their strategy.

The Times is right. The “group has experienced leaders” who’ve led the fight for other levy increases. Rest assured that everyone in the ‘education community’ a) knows about this referendum, b) can recite with great fluency the virtues of voting yes and c) can’t wait to start voting. Those “experienced leaders” have already counted the education community’s votes.

It’s foolish to think that this “experienced leaders” is running an under-the-radar campaign because this is a terrific deal for St. Cloud. If this deal was that important and that well thought out, these “experienced leaders” would’ve canvassed St. Cloud at least 3-4 times.

It isn’t a stretch to think that the education community doesn’t want a high turnout amongst regular taxpayers because they’re afraid that regular taxpayers are fed up with all of the tax increases that they’ve been hit with the last 2-3 year. Perhaps the education community is afraid that regular taxpayers are upset that they haven’t seen a meaningful pay raise in 5 years or more. Meanwhile, under Gov. Dayton and the DFL, government spending has skyrocketed.

The state budget has seen major increases while families have struggled. Gov. Dayton and the DFL isn’t on the ballot this November. Still, it’s a great time to send them a signal that taxpayers are fed up with the DFL’s spending increases and Gov. Dayton’s tax increases.

Gov. Dayton is proudly proclaiming that Minnesota is the best state to do business in. He’s basing that propaganda on CNBC’s latest ranking. After looking at how they arrived at the categories that they ranked states on, it’s easy to see how CNBC arrived at their ridiculous ratings. First, it’s important to know this about the rating system:

For example, if more states tout their low business costs, the “Cost of Doing Business” category carries greater weight. That way, our study ranks the states based on the criteria they use to sell themselves.

According to CNBC’s report, workforce is the most important category, followed by cost of doing business and infrastructure, economy, quality of life, technology & innovation, education, business friendliness, cost of living and, finally, access to capital.

Minnesota ranked 13th in workforce, 35th in cost of doing business, 9th in infrastructure, 5th in economy, 3rd in quality of life, 6th in technology and innovation, 2nd in education, 23rd in business friendliness, 32nd in cost of living and 23rd in access to capital.

CNBC’s ratings only tell us what the states think of themselves. They don’t tell us what businesses think of the state. The fact that more businesses are leaving Minnesota than are moving to Minnesota is the best indicator of what businesses think.

That isn’t to say that Minnesota is getting everything wrong. There are some things that we can build off of. It’s just that there’s a handful of important things that we’d better correct if we want to be the best. Lowering the cost of doing business is essential. That’s only possible by streamlining government, especially regulations. Cutting special deals with a couple companies to entice them here, then shafting businesses that are already here, which the Dayton administration has done, needs to change, too.

UPDATE: King Banaian’s article for the Center for the American Experiment highlights similar points. This point is especially noteworthy:

If you’re a state that isn’t particularly business friendly, you don’t talk about that in your marketing materials. You emphasize other things. You puff your materials with discussion of quality of life and how hardworking your workers are and ignore the areas where your policies might make business a little harder to conduct. And CNBC will go right along and take weight off those things, if the rest of the states are doing the same thing.

I can’t emphasize enough the fact that CNBC’s article isn’t a serious economic statement. It’s a statement based off of the states’ PR statements.