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Does a ‘Bellagio or Wynn experience’ await on Block E?

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Christi Rowan’s turn; PiPress editorial on Wisconsin; switchover brings $40 million; U joins Capitol rally parade; Doug Tice and GOP on high taxes; and differing views on LGA.
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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.