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Does a 'Bellagio or Wynn experience' await on Block E?


A “Bellagio or Wynn experience”? … in Minneapolis?  … on Block E?  Well, not much else has worked. Developer Bob Lux has chatted up the concept with the likes of Ted Mondale, who isn’t calling it absurd. Jennifer Bjorhus’s Strib story says: “ Lux's company, Minneapolis-based Alatus LLC, issued a statement Tuesday saying that the developers have been vetting all manner of ideas for Block E, which is adjacent to the new Twins ballpark and Target Center. ‘Suggestions for the site have included restaurant, retail and entertainment options, as well as a limited-footprint, sophisticated, best-in-class gaming component similar in style and experience to the Bellagio or Wynn’ in Las Vegas, Alatus said, adding that it ‘will be continuing to listen, discuss and explore all ideas.’ It's unclear who would own or operate the casino. Such a project would require approval of the Legislature, and possibly an amendment to the state Constitution. But Alatus officials emphasized that it is not being proposed as a way to help finance a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis.”

Denny Hecker’s bankruptcy trustee wants girlfriend Christi Rowan in jail. MaryJo Webster at the PiPress writes: “[Randy] Seaver, who is trying to secure funds for Hecker's creditors, claims a contempt finding is appropriate because [Judge Robert] Kressel had issued an injunction in early October prohibiting Rowan and Hecker from spending or transferring any estate assets. That order came in the wake of allegations that Hecker, with help from Rowan, had liquidated — and mostly spent — about $154,000 from life insurance policies he should have turned over to the bankruptcy estate. Seaver's motion asks that Rowan be required to repay any money she has spent and account for ‘all money that has passed through her possession or control’ since Kressel's injunction in October.”

We’ll assume the PiPress editorial board is not impressed with the pro-union argument out of Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is also emphasizing the need for certain citizens to pay ‘their fair share. Wisconsin public employee union members are being asked to pay their fair share of pension and health care benefits. In our modern economy, unions have increasingly become government rather than private-sector entities. And generally, public employee union members contribute less, often far less, to their various pension and healthcare benefit plans than do private sector workers.” Besides no apparent awareness that Wisconsin’s state employees have signaled a willingness to pay “their fare share” and that the real fight is a political one over union-busting (which is not mentioned at all in the editorial) it feels like a sleight of hand to suggest that the imbalance in private v. public unions is primarily because of public union growth. But … whatever.

Well, the switch from Tim Pawlenty to Mark Dayton has produced at least a $40 million return on taxes paid out. Warren Wolfe of the Strib reports: “[T]he Obama administration said Tuesday that it will send the state $40 million over five years to develop programs that help aged or disabled people move from care institutions into the community. The demonstration grant, known as Money Follows the Person, will provide $187.4 million through 2016, but about $147 million of that already was expected by the state. ... The state also is seeking two $1 million federal health grants previously prohibited by Pawlenty. One would help the state plan an online ‘health insurance exchange’ to help individuals and small businesses find health insurance. The other would integrate care for people on Medicaid and Medicare.”

Pop star Rihanna is coming to town. Ross Raihala at the PiPress says: “Rihanna will bring her summer tour to the Target Center on June 16. Tickets are $101.75, $61.75, $41.75 and $21.75 and will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday through Ticketmaster.” $101? That's like 17 rounds plus cover for Trailer Trash at Lee's Liquor.

The place to be seen these deep winter days are the rotundas of various state capitols, including Minnesota's. Jenna Ross of the Strib files a story on a demonstration punctuated by U of M President Bob Bruininks saying the system is this close to failing: “I think that tipping point has arrived or it's very close,” he told the crowd. “No longer can the U solve its budget by cutting courses, shaving positions, merging colleges. If the state were to again shrink its funding — as Republicans have proposed — much bigger changes would be needed, Bruininks told the House Higher Education Committee. The U could cut all four of its coordinate campuses and still not save enough, he said. Eliminate its medical schools on the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses? Still wouldn't fill the hole. Close all remaining regional extension offices? That wouldn't cover a third of the proposed cuts.”

D.J. Tice writes a commentary for the Strib on how Gov. Dayton’s “tax the rich” plan might … might … affect “star employees” with lots of location options. “[M]any high-skill, high-earning workers have options — more options than they know what to do with — and they're nationwide options. It is only by force of will that such workers stay in any particular state. Boosting [his friend] John's Minnesota tax rate could make the next offer in Seattle or Boston look a bit better. But I worry more about the next time a Minnesota company tries to tempt a sought-after talent to move here from his or her hometown. ... Higher taxes may be needed. But they don't have to be big, clumsily targeted tax hikes that get the targets all excited, distort economic decisions and thereby maximize the social costs of raising the needed revenue. This is why many tax experts recommend, as a rule, broad-based, low-rate taxes that don't affect decisions so much.” This explains why no successful people ever move to high-tax hellholes like Chicago or the New York metro area.

Maybe Tice has tapped into a GOP undercurrent reported on by Tim Pugmire at MPR. He finds some of the newer GOP crowd amenable to “revenue enhancements": “State Sen. John Howe, Red Wing, said he doesn't want to see any tax increases either, because he fears it would make the state less competitive. But Howe said there is a place for what he calls ‘revenue enhancements.' ‘There are places in our tax code that we can capture revenue that's not being paid. Where we have loopholes in our system, we can address that,’ Howe said. ‘I'm a believer that we should go to more of a consumer-based tax, and less of an income tax, property tax structure. I think what we need is true reform.' " If what either of them is saying is a Tom Horner-like broader sales tax, why don’t they just say it?

Did you see this commentary on Local Government Aid by the mayors of Albert Lea and Bemidji? Its been running in papers outstate. The crux is the split between the smaller Chambers of Commerce and the knee-jerk pro-big- business state Chamber: “They disagree with David Olson, president of the state chamber, who said local chambers that support LGA are simply protecting the status quo. Unfortunately, the status quo over the past few years has been a history of LGA cuts leading to higher property taxes and reduced services for businesses and homeowners in Greater Minnesota and the inner city, while those located in high property wealth cities, particularly in the suburbs, have remained unscathed. If LGA is cut, these inequalities would accelerate, making businesses in greater Minnesota even less competitive with those in property rich cities or in other states, and that is not acceptable.” That, of course, is easy for Albert Lea and Bemidji to say. It’s Edina and Wayzata’s millionaires who will be packing for South Dakota.                                         

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Comments (14)

Block E already has the tacky architectural details of a Vegas casino. Seems like a natural fit.

Re Casino proposal...

If the idea that high buck sports facilities spark economic development were ever true, why would a casino be needed next to Target Field and Target Arena?

Maybe it's needed to strip income from the Target employees in the City Centre?

I have an idea!

How about a Target Casino? Roulette wheels that determine how big a discount you get on shampoo. Blackjack tables that pay off in towels. Slot machines ringing up big wins on Oreos.

Just one thing to consider.

The $21 billion dollar net revenue of all of Nevada's casinos yielded under $800 million in taxes for the state of Nevada.

BL: "This explains why no successful people ever move to high-tax hellholes like Chicago or the New York metro area."

Right on. As an NYC transplant, I can tell you that people there are far more concerned about the cost of living, especially housing, than about the high taxes. Sure taxes there are high, but the pay scale and the many advantages of the city more than make up for that. The "tax flight" argument is just another GOP canard meant to camouflage their larger agenda: starving the government out and gutting regulation to make America a responsibility-free zone for the wealthy.

There ARE people who will move away from Minnesota if we go back to being a higher taxed, high value, high quality of life state.

We should let them leave; perhaps even encourage them. They are VERY POOR citizens. They represent the types who in smaller towns call the city to complain about every shortcoming or perceived minute of lateness in having their streets plowed, who expect that the plowing crews will manage to clear the streets while never filling the end of THEIR driveways with snow (even if that means their neighbors' driveways get a double dose), who complain bitterly about every slight irregularity in the surface of their street because it MIGHT become a pot hole...

But then attend any city commission, council or county board meeting to complain bitterly about their property taxes being raised for local services, while wholeheartedly supporting Republican cuts in income taxes for our state's richest citizens and the resulting cuts in LGA.

They complain loudly about the poor quality of local schools even though they haven't set foot in a school for 30 years and ignore all evidence that the local schools are actually excellent. They can't deal with their own grandchildren for even an hour or two, but think teachers have it easy and somehow believe they could out perform any one of the local school's teachers and would be perfectly willing to do so at half salary, but then, again, wouldn't ever actually ENTER a school building.

Their complete lack of the ability to add two and two together in order to get four when it comes to taxes and government policy and their continuous whining, keening, and complaining at how bitterly unfair their lives are means they cost every level of government a great deal while steadfastly seeking to pay as little as possible and demanding for themselves as much benefit as possible.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the legislature are currently loaded with various versions of exactly this type of person. We will be a far healthier, happier, and more efficient state if they leave and take their spoiled, whining, childish "I, me, mine, me first" attitudes with them.

Arranging government policy in ways that encourage them to leave would almost be like sending the most psychologically dysfunctional, continuously disruptive, incorrigible children in a classroom off to a special school in the hopes they can get the therapy they need, while, at the same time, enabling the more functional, more interested, more emotionally healthy and stable students to get back to the work of learning and earning and the teachers back to teaching rather than spending all their time dealing with those who can't or aren't interested in exhibiting the more mature behavior required in the average school classroom (or life, for that matter).

Doug is always more thoughtful in his arguments than most, but he i slipping here. I don't know that you base an entire philosophy of tax policy around the story of a high flying seafood salesman. After it was all done, I kind of wanted to tell that seafood salesman to take his big locker full of endangered sea bass or whatever trophy fish it is they are feeding to the foodies these days, and move to Arkansas, which is a more likely low tax alternative than Boston or Seattle .

"Developer Bob Lux has chatted up the [Minneapolis casion] concept with the likes of Ted Mondale, who isn’t calling it absurd."

Why is a casino developer talking with the chair of the metropolitan sports facility commission? Are they going to take over Block E as a Texas Hold-em stadium?

I am in a great deal of doubt that the most valuable - the most high-skill, productive workers in the state - are making tons of money. People with million dollar incomes are usually finance hacks or managers. People who make products and ideas, and educate the state - scientists, engineers, professors, teachers - are mostly not in those upper income brackets anyways. So if those folks want to take off for South Dakota because they have to pay a few thousand bucks more in taxes here, I say, good riddance. I hope they enjoy the new cultural experiences available to them.

I live in South Dakota and I can tell you the transplanted millionaires from Edina and Wayzata are thicker than rats around the grain bin trough already. We've set up special internment camps to give them more time to decide which country club to join and where to buy their Cadillacs.

The argument that high taxes drive away talented business people and depress the local business climate is never accompanied by hard evidence. That's because there isn't any actual data that proves this to be true. Doug Tice builds his purely anecdotal case on the experience of a single successful friend whose decision making actually seems to refute Doug's conclusion. Odd.

As you rightly point out, many of the country's most high-flying local economies and highest-paid employees are found in areas with high taxes and high costs-of-living. A hedge-fund manager in Manhattan is going to pay a lot more in taxes than one in Orlando...and yet.

This has been the case for decades. I know. I reported the story for Corporate Report magazine thirty years ago. Some things never change.

One of the budget items we need to pay for with higher taxes in fact ENHANCES business opporunties here: the University of Minnesota. The presence of a large, vibrant research university (or a few of them) is a much better indicator of a healthy business cliimate than the local tax rates...a claim for which there is actual evidence.

Doug's better argument is worthy of debate: If we are going to raise taxes (as we must), can we do so in an equitable way that doesnt' merely soak the rich but attempts to level the burden across income levels so that everyone pays a fair share? As Warren Buffett has repeatedly argued, there is something wrong about a tax system in which his secretary pays a larger percentage of her salary in taxes than he does.

One other thing the right should keep in mind about a sound business climate: It requires a steady influx of ambitious, hard-working immigrants.

I hope the transplanted millionaires in South Dakota, and those planning to follow them, enjoy the cultural amenities of South Dakota. Talk about a cold Omaha, they don't even have decent college teams to follow let alone the Gutherie or SPCO or even a Brave New Workshop.

I would also imagine that their plane tickets to the warmer climes will cost them a bit more as they have to fly through Minneapolis first.


Many smart retailers offer "door busters" to get customers into their store knowing that once they are in the store, they will spend money. MN looses a big chunk of revenue by encouraging retirees to move to no tax states like FL to cash out their retirement plans. Let's adapt economic policies to make MN a state that encourages people to come here and stay here.

"MN looses a big chunk of revenue by encouraging retirees to move to no tax states like FL to cash out their retirement plans."

If only we could control the climate too, they wouldn't have any reasons to leave MN.

I often see it stated as fact that wealthy people will leave the state if taxes are raised, yet I've never seen one scintilla of unbiased data supporting this claim.

Tice's column is a perfect and typical case in point: he uses a data set of one guy to draw conclusions about the behavior a quarter million people in the state.

And Tice is even wrong about the one guy! His friend still lives here despite frequent offers to leave Minnesota for more money. Tice disproves his own argument!

What part of "Bellagio in Las Vegas" bespeaks "limited footprint"?