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Whoa! What's this? A GOP-backed tax increase?

MORNING EDITION

Wait a minute … this is a tax increase! The AP is reporting: “Two Republicans state senators on Thursday proposed that so-called ‘little cigars’ should be taxed at the higher rate applied to cigarettes in Minnesota. Little cigars along with normal-sized cigars are defined as ‘tobacco products’ under state law and taxed at a lower rate than cigarettes. Various state taxes on cigarettes add up to almost two dollars a pack, and the Department of Revenue estimated that taxing little cigars like cigarettes would raise about $6 million in the 2012-13 budget cycle. Normal-sized cigars would not be affected. That's not much compared to the $5 billion state budget shortfall, but it's a case of legislative Republicans actually backing an uptick in a state tax — rare so far in the current legislative session.” No kidding. Where’s that dang pledge, anyway?


The gridlocked “debate” in D.C. over the current budget, with repeated continuing resolutions and nibbling cuts, has yet to affect Minnesota all that much, according to an MPR story by Brett Neely. “Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack said he was sure that there were projects in his northeast Minnesota district that would be affected by budget cuts. ‘I mean you can't have $14.1 trillion in debt and start doing the cutting [and] savings that we're trying to do and not have something affected,’ Cravaack said. Rep. Collin Peterson, a longtime Minnesota Democrat and a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog coalition, said these past two rounds of cuts were easy. ‘Most of these cuts are things that Obama has proposed or agreed to, and I can't see that they're going to have much impact on the state or agriculture for that matter.' "

With Rochester now Minnesota’s third largest city, surpassing Duluth by almost 20 percent, KARE’s Boyd Huppert looks at the city’s prospects for even more growth: “The Mayo Clinic deserves much of the credit. The internationally acclaimed health care facility is responsible for many of the 9,000 health care jobs added in Rochester the past ten years. ‘When a shoe manufacturer adds 300 jobs, they don't get a whole lot of visitors,’ explained Wheeler. ‘When the clinic adds 9,000 jobs, that entails mostly people coming here.' "

Well, we’ve talked about it for months. Now flood season is here. Bill McAuliffe of the Strib writes: “The Minnesota River and the Red River of the North are at the top of the list of U.S. flood risks. In a press conference Thursday, flood forecasters said both places are likely to see major or even record flooding within the next two weeks. ... The melt of a thick blanket of snow across the Northern Plains could set the stage for summer flooding along the Mississippi. It also could have an impact on the barge-shipping season and delay crop planting. This winter's snow cover across the north-central U.S. contains a water content ranked among the highest of the past 60 years, according to NOAA.”

An AP story says noted chimp researcher Jane Goodall’s archive is moving from the University of Minnesota to Duke: “Duke spokesman Karl Bates said Thursday the archives on chimpanzees that Goodall gathered during decades of work in Tanzania is being moved to the Durham campus from the University of Minnesota. The collection will be under the direction of Anne E. Pusey, chairwoman of the university's Department of Evolutionary Anthropology. Pusey had collaborated with Goodall in Tanzania and previously managed the archives from her post at Minnesota. She was hired by Duke about a year ago.”

Our Derek Wallbank pretty much has the Minnesota angle on the House GOP’s vote to defund NPR to himself. After noting the straight line 4-4 split, Wallbank says: “It should be noted that at least a partial reason for the vote is that many Republicans think NPR is biased in favor of liberals in general and Democrats in particular, and have cited the recent firing of conservative commentator Juan Williams, as well as comments made by a senior NPR fundraiser (no longer with NPR) in a highly-edited covert sting video, to support that belief. ‘NPR is widely recognized as a partisan media outlet that has long served as a platform for decidedly left-leaning programming and commentary,’ [Texas Rep. Jeb] Hensarling said. ‘This is a highly objectionable trait for an organization that is funded by American taxpayers. Thanks to today’s House vote, we are one step closer to ensuring that will no longer be the case.’ Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern, in a bit of pique, introduced a retaliatory amendment to ban federal funding for advertisements on Fox News.”

GOP state Rep. Mark Buesgens has violated his probation for DUI. Rachel Stassen-Berger blogs on the Strib’s “Hot Dish Politics”: “Buesgens was stopped by a Scott County Sheriff's deputy Wednesday night after a caller saw his car and reported that he or she believed the driver was drunk. Kevin Studnicka, the Scott County Sheriff, said the report did not include what the driver, who turned out to be Buesgens, did that made the caller suspect a violation. Studnicka said a deputy tracked down Buesgens car, witnessed a turn-signal violation and stopped the representative. When stopped, Buesgens initially said he had nothing to drink, then said he had two mixed drinks during dinner, the sheriff said. Buesgens said he had just one mixed drink. ... Buesgens also faces financial trouble. Late last year, the bank that holds his mortgage moved to foreclose upon his Jordan home. The foreclosure was delayed but Buesgens said Thursday that he may lose his home.” That guy may need a better-paying night job than state legislator.

Dick Day’s day is nigh. The colorful ex-senator, now the head of Minnesota’s racino effort, is promising a bill … very soon. Baird Helgeson of the Strib writes: “The proposal will run up against powerful anti-gambling forces at the Capitol, including groups opposed for moral reasons and tribes that don’t want to lose their monopoly on gambling in the state. Both sides have powerful legislative allies in an issue that doesn’t split down party lines. But the state’s $5 billion projected deficit could convince legislators to give the proposal a serious look. The state could receive about $250 million every two years, money that could go for education, Capitol renovation or other cash-strapped causes.” I’d love to be there for the backroom deals with the tribes on this one.

If you know who Frank Luntz is, you know you don’t meet with him in your Wisconsin Capitol governor’s office to discuss “job creation.” Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports: “Democrats have filed a complaint over Walker’s meeting last month with a prominent Republican pollster. In a complaint with the state Government Accountability Board, state Democratic Party executive director Maggie Brick questioned whether Walker had derived a benefit from a free meeting with political consultant Frank Luntz on Feb. 23. State officials are not supposed to use their positions to seek anything of value. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie has said the purpose of the meeting was to advance Wisconsin businesses, not Walker’s political career. Werwie said Thursday that the complaint was meant to be a distraction from Walker's effort to create jobs in the state.” Now really, is anyone supposed to actually believe that?

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Comments (10)

The change of tax status on little cigars is a good move, and long overdue. Unfortunately, bills to weaken existing laws that restrict youth access to tobacco and ensure smokefree air in indoor workplaces continue to move toward floor votes. Both deserve a strong "no" vote.

YOU: "...conservative commentator Juan Williams."

ME: Really? "Conservative"?

Along with a tax on "little cigars", many Republicans also support the Racino which is the best kind of tax--a voluntary tax. To make it even better, it's a tax on a billion dollar industry in Minnesota that currently pays zero state income taxes. If you're pro-competition, and Republicans always claim to be, you have to support the Racino. The big question is are there enough tax loving Democrats to pass the Racino at a time new revenues are so needed, or are the tribes still controlling the DFL?

Lambert makes a seemingly innocuous comment regarding racino legislation, "I’d love to be there for the backroom deals with the tribes on this one," that really is a sad commentary on government.

The fact of the matter is that more than 70% of the citizens want this legislation to pass. There shouldn't have to be any "deals" as government should do what the people want.

Instead, Minnesota's legislators have been bought off by one wealthy group because of a monopoly that the legislature itself created.

PASS RACINO LEGISLATION THIS YEAR!

Regarding the "small cigar" tax, I can't help but wonder which of the Koch Bros. the Republicans called to get to the OK on this...

Or was it just Bill Cooper?

As for the gambling expansion, expansion of gambling is the WORST kind of expansion of government revenue since it would result in the extraction of even MORE money from the lower and middle classes. In other words, just one more way of making those who can LEAST afford to pay bear most of the burden for the cost of appropriate and needed government services (while protecting those who can MOST afford to pay from paying their fair share).

Talk about a regressive tax.

It's a sure bet that, if our Republican representatives' wealthy friends owned any of those casinos, they would be adamantly opposed to such taxes because they'd make it more difficult for our Minnesota Casinos to "compete with those in neighboring states." Why, our Casino operators might even MOVE their businesses to Wisconsin or South Dakota!

But of course, since, Minnesota's Casinos are owned by Native American Tribes, well, if THOSE red people get dinged (as opposed to rich white men) THAT's not a problem for Republicans.

Here's an idea: since, as the Stock and Commodity Markets are currently organized they are nothing more nor less than casinos in which "investors" get to place bets on whether other investor's emotional responses to today's news will cause the bidding on stocks or commodities in a particular sector of the economy to go up and down (with LITTLE OR NO verifiable connection to the actual profits, efficiency, or viability or availability of the companies and commodities whose stocks and futures contracts are being traded)...

Why not tax THIS form of gambling, with a very small, say 1 penny of state tax on each transaction? Such a tax might even help those casinos where rich people constantly make financial "killings" trading huge volumes of stocks or contracts based on inside information to which the rest of us don't have access, to return to its original function - allowing people to buy into and support the birth and growth of companies with good ideas and the kind of creativity and solid management required to produce good products based on those ideas, and facilitating the movement of and stabilizing the prices of commodities traded worldwide.

As to NPR (and MPR), I just love it when my conservative friends whine and complain, once again about the reality behind Stephen Colbert's quip, "Truth has a liberal bias."

When you, like the Republicans, base your perspectives on economics, history, science, even religion, on seeing only what you want to see, and ignoring everything else, the kind of truth telling that Public Broadcasting does, hesitating and tepid though it may have been in recent years, seems to threaten everything you hold dear (all your biases, all the misinformation you cling to, all the things you so desperately WANT to be true, all evidence to the contrary being dismissed out of hand).

For far too many of my "conservative" friends, the information they observe daily from the weasel, whose denizens admit that they freely make things up, and that they truly are a propaganda wing of the GOP, becomes their "truth."

Public Broadcasting, being far more likely to be ACTUAL truth, threatens to shine light into and kill the carefully-designed reverberations in their "conservative" weasel-based echo chamber. Therefore IT must be killed.

Please, let's not let them commit that murder.

Little cigars are a good symbol of republican legislators cojones in balancing the state budget on cuts only. Lets see a ROBUST response that considers all options including tax increases and cuts.

Gambling isn't free money. The cost is high.

Who is going to cover the cost of addiction once we have a casino in every Starbucks?

Are we going to offer free gamblers anonymous from the tax money? Maybe require the health companies to pay for that.

Who is going to feed the children after their mother feeds her gambling addiction? Just throw her in jail for neglect? We still get the kids.

Can you get reimbursed from tax revenue when the guy who owes you money declares bankruptcy after dumping his life savings into the slots? The banks want to know that.

Luntz is author of a new best seller titled "Winning", and it's chock full of strategies to help business succeed.

So Walker is, as usual, probably quite correct.

Do you ever feel like there is a complete sea change taking palce around you, Bri?

Drew, be careful trying to get Lambert to acknowledge "majority" opinion.

He get very peeved when confronted with evidence of overwhelming support on issues that are contratry to his utopian visions.

Just sayin'.

Any consideration of a racino or similar expansion of legal gambling should start with a conversation regarding the historical context; that is, WHY the tribes currently have a monopoly on casino-based gambling in MN. It should also probably look closely at what the impacts of a vast expansion of the lottery has meant in terms of both revenue gained and social costs generated.

Call me crazy, but it seems like there is room for a rational discussion here.