Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category
This article about President-Elect Trump’s deal with Carrier includes the obligatory ‘this sets a dangerous precedent’ quote. In this article, Steve Weitzner of Silverlode Consulting is quoted as saying “It’s a potentially dangerous policy where you reward a company that threatens to leave. It’s a dangerous precedent. Why wouldn’t every other company make the exact same pitch? In this case, you’re rewarding a company that is actually cutting a lot of jobs in the state.”
If this were done in a vacuum, Weitzner would’ve made a salient point. This isn’t happening in a vacuum, though. This was a stop-gap measure aimed at preventing a single company from leaving. The biggest thing that will incentivize other companies into staying is passing the Trump-Ryan tax simplification legislation. The other biggest thing that will incentivize companies to stay is Trump’s regulatory reforms.
What corporate CEO would have their job if they left a nation with low marginal corporate tax rates, a reasonable regulatory environment and a well-trained workforce? That’s a three-legged stool to build a vibrant economy around. That’s a foundation upon which a thriving economy is built.
Let’s be clear. The questions Weitzner asked are legitimate questions. If the Trump administration wasn’t intent on tax and regulatory reform, the Carrier deal wouldn’t be getting positive reviews. That’s why it’s important to look at this deal in its totality. It’s worth noting that companies will return to the US the minute it looks like President Trump’s tax and regulatory plans are becoming reality.
Finally, imagine a company CEO getting a call from President Trump telling them that their company would get hit with expensive tariffs if they left the US. I can’t imagine that being a pleasant conversation.
This Our View editorial in the Mankato Free Press gets it wrong. That isn’t surprising. It’s predictable. Let’s look at what the MFP got wrong.
MFP’s headline is simple: “Our View: Legislature: Make divided government work.” Let’s be clear about something. Republicans gained seats in the House during a presidential election. While they were expected to hold onto their majority in the House, it was expected that they’d have fewer members than they started 2015 with. Republicans gained a net of 6 seats in the Senate, defeating 4 incumbents, flipping 3 open seats previously held by the DFL, then losing Senate Minority Leader Hann’s district in Eden Prairie.
The thing that brought the GOP their majorities is known to everyone paying attention to this election. In district after district, voters frequently rejected the ACA, often by wide margins. What’s astonishing is that 52 of the 76 GOP victories in the House races were won with more than 58% of the vote, something that’s unprecedented in MNGOP history. In race after race, MNGOP candidates said that fixing MNsure and the ACA were the most important, most frequently, issues mentioned by voters.
Republicans have offered plans to fix the most important parts of the ACA. The DFL has offered a one-time fix for skyrocketing health insurance premiums. Factor in that the DFL created MNsure without a single Republican vote. That brings us to this indisputable truth: the DFL needs to come in the Republicans’ direction. In the vast majority of races, voters rejected the DFL’s ideas on health care.
These paragraphs are especially disgusting:
Recent news stories reported that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt “struck combative tones” for the upcoming legislative session with the Republicans in control of the Legislature. We hope both leaders get rid of those combative tones sooner than later.
The people of Minnesota find such tones tiresome. Last year’s legislative session left too much important work undone. Tax breaks for famers and small business, major bonding projects and road funding were left at the table.
There was a time when politicians worked to do what’s best for Minnesotans. That’s disappeared with Dayton. He’s done what his special interest puppeteers told him to do. It’s his obligation to move in Speaker Daudt’s direction because voters rejected the DFL’s ideas on health care. Voters rejected the DFL’s tax policies, too. Again, it’s Gov. Dayton’s and the DFL’s obligation to move in the Republicans’ direction on fixing MNsure and taxes.
If Gov. Dayton, Lt. Gov. Smith and the DFL insist on not listening to the message voters sent on Election Day again, they’ll soon be removed from controlling any of Minnesota’s levers of power. That’s because they’ll soon be dealing with a Republican governor and GOP majorities in the Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate. It’s that simple.
The big story from Tuesday night was that Republicans pretty much had their way with Democrats once the urban votes were counted. Donald Trump was on the verge of victory seemingly for hours. Minutes ago, he won Pennsylvania, officially giving him 278 electoral votes. That’s without adding Arizona’s 11 electoral votes (Trump leads there 49.7%-45.4%) and Michigan’s 16 electoral votes (Trump leads there 48.1%-46.8%). If Trump wins those states, that puts him at 305 electoral votes.
Though Trump’s victory was the night’s biggest news, it wasn’t the only good news for Republicans. At this point, Republicans have lost a net of 1 seat in the US Senate with 2 races heading for runoffs. That gives Republicans a minimum of 51 seats in the Senate. Add to that the fact that Republicans easily held onto their majority in the House and you’ve got a banner night for the RNC and America’s blue collar workers.
This means that Merrick Garland won’t be confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, the next question will be whether President Obama pulls the nomination or whether Garland withdraws his name from consideration.
Throughout the night, commentators kept saying that Trump had a path to victory but that it was a narrow, uphill path. After Trump won the must-win states of Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, those commentators said that Trump had done what he had to do before mentioning the fact that Mr. Trump hadn’t yet penetrated the Democrats’ Blue Wall. That commentary disappeared when Wisconsin fell. Suddenly, those commentators realized that Mrs. Clinton was on the defensive. They realized that she was suddenly in the position of needing to run the table to win the White House.
By the time they called Pennsylvania, the writing was on the wall. Reality had started sinking in. Most commentators in the network studios understood that Donald Trump was all but officially the president-elect of the United States. This is how Fox News called the race over:
The incoming Trump administration and the Republican House and Senate now have a mandate to get things done. The first 100 days of the Trump administration figure to be busy. They’ll have to nominate the man or woman who will replace Justice Scalia. They’ll want to work with Congress on building the wall. Hopefully, they’ll repeal and replace Obamacare. They’ll want to get started with reforming the tax code, too.
Those things wouldn’t have been possible if not for the Republicans’ big night on the nation’s biggest stage.
People who’ve read LFR lately know that the ACA’s health insurance premiums are increasing. There’ve been days lately when I’ve felt like I was writing for a publication called ‘The latest in ACA failures.’ I thought I’d read it all. This article is proof that I hadn’t read it all.
The part that caught my attention is a quote from Mary Liz Holberg. She said “This has been a huge unfunded mandate on the counties. Once again, we’re cleaning up the state’s mess.” According to the article, state “officials once promised the system — officially called the Minnesota Eligibility and Technology System (METS), would make the process of enrolling and verifying participants faster and cheaper. But behind the scenes, county eligibility workers have been tearing their hair out over a malfunctioning IT system that’s never come close to living up to its billing since MNsure went online three years ago. In fact, it’s gotten worse.”
This should get everyone’s attention:
“There is more case eligibility and maintenance work required in METS by county staff than in the former system,” according to a recent Hennepin County Board report.
In other words, MNsure isn’t the reason for the premium increases. It’s just part of the problem. Either way, it isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do. It isn’t working as well as the system that was in place pre-ACA.
That’s the definition of a failure.
The constant drumbeat from the St. Cloud Times and the ISD 742 School Board is that a) Tech is ancient and falling apart and b) we have to build a new Tech HS at the cost of $104,500,000. What they don’t want voters to know is that Apollo a) currently houses the district offices and b) can hold 2,400 students if they were the only occupants of the building.
The Times and the School Board definitely don’t want voters to know that the combined enrollment for Tech HS and Apollo HS for SY2015-16 was 2,715 students. They definitely don’t want voters to know that enrollment is declining and is forecast to continue shrinking.
What that means
Those statistics mean that Apollo’s campus will likely soon be able to hold all of the district’s high school students within 5 years. That means that the School Board and the St. Cloud Times are pushing voters to spend $143,500,000 on facilities that won’t be needed within 5 years. What’s puzzling is that renovating Apollo would cost a fraction of that $143,500,000 and suffice in housing the District’s high school students for the next half-century.
ISD 742 residents have a decision to make. Do they want to spend $39,000,000 on renovating a facility that will meet the district’s needs for the next half-century or whether they’ll approve the building of a new Tech HS at a cost of $104,500,000 plus an additional $39,000,000 for renovating Apollo. ISD 742 residents will have to decide if they’re willing to spend $104,500,000 on a building that isn’t needed. ISD 742 residents will have to decide whether they want the accompanying property tax increases for the next quarter-century.
Thus far in this series, I’ve highlighted the fact that the ISD742 School Board hasn’t talked about St. Cloud’s high school enrollment forecasts for the short-, medium- and long-term. They didn’t tell voters that they’ve already purchased the land for a new Tech HS. That wasn’t announced on the District’s website. It was announced this past week on Dan Ochsner’s radio program when a current school board member called into Ox’s show and blurted that information out.
Last year, voters found out in the newspaper that there wasn’t a finalized set of blueprints for people to look at because, according to Barclay Carriar, “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.”
Last year, taxpayers didn’t know that the plans were “still tentative.” This year, we didn’t know that the District had already purchased the land where the new Tech HS is supposed to be built at. The next logical question that taxpayers should demand answers to is what other information the School Board hasn’t disclosed. At this point, taxpayers don’t know where the money came from to pay for the Tech HS land. That’s certainly something that we should know. Did the District have enough money tucked away to pay for the land? At this point, taxpayers don’t know.
The thing that taxpayers know, though, is that they aren’t writing any blank checks this year. This isn’t the time when people are trusting politicians. The School Board is asking taxpayers to approve the biggest property tax increase in St. Cloud history without telling taxpayers that they’ve already bought the land for the new high school. That’s terrible because the taxpayers haven’t approved the bonds yet. That tells taxpayers that the School Board is taking them for granted.
Just because the School Board is a rubberstamp doesn’t mean that taxpayers are a rubberstamp. Taxpayers don’t want a canned presentation. They want input from start to finish. That’s something that the School Board isn’t willing to relinquish.
In my estimation, the ISD742 School Board has transitioned from being public servants to being arrogant taskmasters. That’s why the bonding referendum must be defeated. That’s why we need new School Board members elected ASAP.
In Part I of this series, I highlighted the fact that the ISD742 School Board still hasn’t told voters these important things: what the district’s high school enrollment is, whether the district’s high school enrollment is declining or increasing and whether that’s likely to continue into the future.
Another thing that hasn’t happened is that the School Board hasn’t told voters that they’ve already bought the land where the new Tech HS is to be built. We found that out because one of the school board members called into Dan Ochsner’s Ox in the Afternoon show and said that they’d already purchased the land. The first question that I’d ask is simple: where did they get the money to pay for a tract of land that big? The next question I’d ask is just as simple: Why didn’t the School Board announce this acquisition when it happened? That isn’t the type of thing that should’ve gotten inadvertently revealed on talk radio. It should’ve gotten announced.
Something that should be asked of every school board candidate is whether they support the bonding referendum. If they support it, they should be pressed on why they support it. I’d ask them if they’ve looked at the high school enrollment forecasts, too. If they haven’t, then they’re likely to rubberstamp Superintendent Jett’s agenda without questioning. Have they considered whether downsizing might be the better option?
This should be about doing what’s right for the students and the taxpayers. This shouldn’t be about what’s got the School Board excited. If it’s determined that the district doesn’t need this building, then it should be rejected handily.
Finally, the question is whether St. Cloud needs this type of facility or whether that’s too big:
Based on enrollment patterns, I don’t think it’s justified. That’s why the referendum should be rejected.
It isn’t surprising that the Establishment has a different perspective on whether to build a new Tech High School. The title of their Our View Editorial is “Vote ‘yes’ twice to deliver best value for schools.” To be fair, not everything in the editorial is foolishness.
For instance, they have a legitimate point when they say “If you think it’s adequately built to educate today’s youth — not to mention future generations — you have not been in its crowded hallways between classes, especially if your mobility is impaired.”
The question isn’t whether doing nothing is an option. It isn’t. The question is whether the options on this November’s ballot represent the best value for students and taxpayers. They don’t. The current options are the School Board’s choice. The School Board started with a goal, then they tried figuring out how to make it happen.
They didn’t ask, in any meaningful way anyway, what the district’s enrollments would be in 2020. They certainly didn’t think of what the district’s need would be in 2050. It’s certain that ISD742 will look dramatically different in 2040 than it looks today. This argument is total foolishness:
If both questions pass, the monthly increase in taxes for a $150,000 home will be about $13. Approving just a new Tech costs about $9 a month.
So what? The important question that still hasn’t gotten asked is what the district’s needs are. Telling me that the payments on something are $13 a month for the next generation doesn’t tell me whether that something will be useful for the next generation.
The other question that hasn’t been asked is why these prices reflect prevailing wage bids. The cost of everything is increased with prevailing wage bids. The quality doesn’t increase, either. Why would taxpayers want to pay extra for something that isn’t dramatically better? The unions might howl about this but that isn’t my responsibility. My responsibility is to vote for the best product at the least expensive price.
For example, to address neighborhood concerns about the future of the Tech campus, the district has said it will move its administrative offices and welcome center to the older parts of Tech. Similarly, more thorough research was done — and remains available — about the costs of building new compared with rebuilding old.
There’s no question that more information is available this time. Still, there’s no question that the School Board still hasn’t answered the most important questions. There’s no question that building a new high school and renovating Apollo doesn’t represent a great value to students and taxpayers. It’s too expensive and it’s too big for our needs.
The ISD742 School Board is trying to ram a $143,000,000 bonding referendum down its residents’ throats because they started with a predetermined destination, then put together a plan to reach that destination. In the Board’s arrogance, they’ve decided they didn’t need to listen to their constituents. That decision was the worst decision they’ve collectively ever made.
The Board decided they wanted to build a new Tech HS without first determining what the students’ and the district’s needs were. They made that decision without first determining whether the district was shrinking or growing. (It’s shrinking.) The plan that they’re promoting would equip St. Cloud with 2 high school buildings, each with a capacity of 1,800 students. The last full school year, high school enrollment for ISD742 was approximately 2,700 students.
The first question that must be asked by taxpayers is this: why the Board would overbuild the district’s needs. Claire VanderEyk, a Tech graduate who took an interest in last year’s referendum, wrote this post on her blog of Feb. 17, 2016. At the time, Claire wrote “I haven’t seen stats on this – but according to many people I’ve spoken with, District 742 is losing students. One cause of this, I’m told, is the quality of high schools in the neighboring districts of Sartell and Sauk Rapids. This is frustrating, I agree. It is difficult to maintain proper school facilities and high quality staff when the tax base that supports your district is dwindling.”
Claire stated that she thinks renovation is possible when she wrote “But, as I’ve said before, I have not been provided evidence that these issues cannot be overcome and would make the feasibility of retaining Tech High School as an educational facility for another 100 years impossible.” The truth is that there are parts of Tech that are quite usable.
The truth is that the Board hasn’t considered any option other than building a $100,000,000 brand new Tech HS that’s too big for the district’s needs.
DFL senators killed the House bonding bill in mid-May by insisting that the bill include funding for the Southwest Light Rail project. In June, Gov. Dayton killed middle class tax relief with a pocket veto. In July, Gov. Dayton refused to call a special session in House Republicans didn’t include funding for the Southwest Light Rail project. (Sounds like a broken record, doesn’t it?) In August, after the Met Council, CTIB and Hennepin County provided the local funding for the Southwest Light Rail project, Gov. Dayton hinted that he was open to a special session again.
Friday, Gov. Dayton sent a letter to Speaker Daudt saying that “he had ‘reluctantly concluded that the time for agreement on a Special Session has expired.'” It expired because Gov. Dayton didn’t get everything he wanted in the bill. Republicans insisted that specific highway projects be included in the bonding bill, including the Highway 14 project. Speaker Daudt addressed that, saying “House Republicans have initiated every meeting and discussion over the past two months to pass tax relief and funding for critical infrastructure projects like Highway 23, Highway 14, and countless others throughout the state.”
In the end, Gov. Dayton said that wasn’t enough:
But the infrastructure bill was more troublesome. Lawmakers solved the money issue — Dayton’s demands that Republicans add new funding for his priorities, including upgrades at the state’s psychiatric hospital in St. Peter. But a process issue proved intractable. Dayton objected on principle to the infrastructure bill’s earmarking of money for specific projects, and was backed up in this by a letter signed by a bipartisan range of current and former chairs of the Legislature’s transportation committees. Many lawmakers like earmarking because it lets them guarantee funding for key projects in their home districts. House leaders agreed to a compromise that would give the Department of Transportation more flexibility instead of dictating every project, but Dayton’s letter said that “remains unacceptable.”
Gov. Dayton is pretending like MnDOT ultimately decides what projects get done. That’s fiction. It’s indisputable that MnDOT has a say in which projects get done. The Met Council, CTIB and port authorities all have a say in it, too.
The first time that Gov. Dayton and the DFL rejected the special session, Gov. Dayton and the DFL said no because they put a higher priority on funding the SWLRT project than they put on providing middle class tax relief. The final time that Gov. Dayton and the DFL rejected the terms for a special session, they rejected it because they didn’t get to control who picked the highway improvement projects. The reality is that farmers, veterans, students and small businesses didn’t get tax relief because Gov. Dayton and the DFL didn’t put a high priority on it. Gov. Dayton and the DFL put a higher priority on a project that the vast majority of Minnesotans will never use. Then Gov. Dayton and the DFL said no to tax relief because they didn’t get to pick their transportation projects.