Daily Glean: Pawlenty admits budget will hike property taxes $600 million

Although he doesn’t talk it up, Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget assumes $626 million in local property tax hikes over the next three years stemming from his local government aid cuts, MPR’s Tom Scheck reports. DFLers shout, “Aha! See, he admits he’s raising taxes!” Dems prefer using the progressive income tax, or a “circuit breaker” system that ties p-tax rebates to income, making a regressive tax less so. Pawlenty troops say he’s not to blame because locals do the hiking.

DFL legislators proposed health care reforms Monday
, including c-section discouragement, lower-cost “birthing centers,” no pay for duplicate lab work, and mandatory fluoride varnishes, the PiPress’ Jason Hoppin reports. No cost savings are given. Other facets include negotiated bulk-med discounts, elimination of ineffective screenings and mandatory authorization for psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin. The Uptake provides 21 minutes of press conference video here.

Do away with most state income tax breaks and lower rates? That’s what DFL House Tax Chair Ann Lenczewski proposes, without support from her leadership or Republicans, the Strib’s Pat Lopez writes. Lenczewski claims support throughout her caucus to end most mortgage-interest, K-12 and job-creation breaks, citing both Reagan revolution principles and tax progressivity, MPR’s Scheck notes. Forum Communications’ Don Davis adds that long-term-care credits would disappear.

Related: The St. Paul Legal Ledger’s Charley Shaw says the plan would kill Gov. Pawlenty’s JOBZ program, which others have said needs dispatching. Still, Lenczeski says large businesses would benefit through other changes.

United Way will cut 10 percent of its positions, instituting a one-week furlough for the rest plus a salary freeze and reduced travel, training and advertising budgets, the Strib’s Jean Hopfensperger notes. The group faces a $5 million projected shortfall at a time when two-thirds of its programs are seeing more clients.

The Walker will cut $2 million over the next two years, about a 5 percent cut, the Strib’s Graydon Royce reports. No exhibitions or programs are being axed, but there will be fewer live performances and film screenings, the PiPress’ Dominic Papatola says. Positions will be left unfilled, and employees will get one-week furloughs. Six-figure donors staunched some of the bleeding, but the arts center’s endowment fell 23 percent since June.

Tom Petters’ lawyers are threatening to quit unless they get a $5 million legal budget, the Strib’s David Phelps writes. They are righteously pissed that they’ve only received half of the $581,000 they’ve billed so far; the PiPress’ Nicole Garrison-Sprenger says they are owed $500,000. Prosecutors want the money preserved for victims. The defense lawyers hope to force a fee decision from a federal judge. Also Monday, a judge rejected Petters’ motion to move the trial out of state.

Amid the ambient (and overplayed) grandstanding over Sara Jane Olson’s release from a California prison, Fox9’s Tom Lyden reports Minnesota is a net exporter of criminals. Roughly 2,500 Minnesotans are serving time out of state, compared with about 1,600 non-residents in local pokeys. The PiPress’ Emily Gurnon says Olson’s release will be announced after it happens today; she’ll be on parole for a year. The former Kathleen Soliah will pay the flat $300 fee for her supervision.

Fox News says federal investigators have found information about missing local Somali men … on Facebook. At least one expresses violent sentiments. Although the story says the legal strictures limit federal authorities’ digging, I doubt that’s much of an obstacle; you probably don’t want to be on their friends list.

Somewhat related: The New York Times takes a long look at the possible autism outbreak in the local Somali community, which MinnPost wrote about extensively last July. There’s little evidence of such clusters in other U.S. Somali communities, and the Times notes that false clusters are regularly reported for other diseases. Still, lots of locals testify to the problem.

With school budget cuts forcing districts to target transportation costs, more kids will have to walk to school or pay busing fees ($170 per kid!). But KSTP’s Jennifer Griswold says a DFL legislator wants to raise those expenses by tightening a state minimum “must bus” zone, currently two miles. Rep. Melissa Hortman says it’s about safety, and would let districts levy property taxes for transportation. That not only goes against the DFL hatred of property taxes but the DFL Senate’s expanded education cuts.

Related: Forum’s Davis says outstate senators of both parties helped kill a joint-purchasing plan to save school districts money.

The archdiocese says this isn’t the start of a trend, but two Catholic K-8 schools will close in June, the PiPress’ Doug Belden reports. Trinity is in a poor part of St. Paul and Seton is in a poor part of Minneapolis; subsidies were unsustainable. Fewer local school-age kids and middle-class Catholic flight to the ‘burbs were cited as reasons. About 200 students were affected; there are still 101 Catholic schools in the diocese. A spokesperson can’t say more won’t close, but these were the problem children.

A citizen-legislator council approved the first plan for spending $69 million in habitat sales-tax money. Even the lone opponent pledges to champion it in the Legislature, the PiPress’ Dennis Lien reports. Although two legislative members complain there wasn’t enough dough for the metro, there are projects in 77 of 87 counties. State Rep. Rick Hansen says he’ll push for the plan, but the Strib, which has played up geo-conflict, has him saying the bill is in trouble. MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill has more.

Michele Bachmann, fibbing about not sponsoring earmarks, from the Strib’s Kevin Diaz. She lapped up nearly $4 million last fiscal year and went on Fox to brag about her probity, earning a hearty fact check.

A judge blocked an RNC Molotov-cocktail-maker from switching to a guilty plea late in the game, the Strib’s James Walsh reports. Federal judge Michael Davis told David McKay to think about it overnight. McKay, who has claimed entrapment, survived an earlier mistrial, but Walsh says he changed his mind “as soon as it became clear Monday that his former co-defendant was going to testify against him.”

Related: A RNC8 informant waived his right to trial on unrelated assault/burglary charges that could impeach his future convention-related testimony, the Strib’s Randy Furst writes. Minnesota Independent’s Paul Demko says RNC8 supporters wonder if Andrew Darst struck a plea deal.

Good payday loan report from MPR youth correspondent Cathy Mayfield, who weaves her family’s experience with those of Burnsville customers. One legislator wants to ban such loans, which charge 9 percent for two weeks or 200 percent annually. However, action would move to the Internet, which the state can’t regulate. By the way, the industry’s euphemism for its usury is “small consumer loans.” Congress recently capped annual rates at 36 percent for military families, and may extend that to everyone.

Nort spews:
Congrats to the women Gopher hoopsters, who get an NCAA tournament 10th seed, and a road game versus Notre Dame.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/17/2009 - 11:38 am.

    The beauty of locally levied taxes, such as property taxes, is that we can gather our neighbors and march right up to our city council and mayor to demand an accounting.

    Our state legislators have the ability to hide behind an office door, and we do not have the ability to confront them when they are in session. The closest many citizens are ever able to get to their state representatives are smarmy, self-congratulatory pamphlets.

    I have found that participatory Democracy works much better when I can have a nice, public, face to face meeting with my elected oficials. I encourage everyone to set aside time to attend your Truth in Taxation meeting this year.

    Make your representatives explain what steps they have taken to control costs (too often, the answer is “nothing”). Remind them that “leadership” consists of more than marching in the Founders Day parade.

    Get involved!

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 03/17/2009 - 01:11 pm.

    Re: Property taxes to rise by $626 million. Pawlenty can pretend that he is not responsible, but he is one of only a few people who believe him.

    A secondary result of his anti-government/anti-poor-people agenda with regard to property taxes affects renters, who pay as part of their rent 100 percent of the landlord’s property taxes. Since they are considered a business expense, landlords pay twice what home-owners who receive the homestead exemption pay. The tax on a one-bedroom rental apartment might well be $1,200, for instance, instead of the $600 or so I pay as the owner of a unit similarly valued.

    Pawlenty plans to make appreciable cuts to renters’ measly circuit breaker refunds of part of their property-tax payments in order to help balance his budget. Bad policy. Bad news for renters. Bad governance.

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