Best Buy is using its legislative/lobbying muscle to make online retailers pay sales tax. Martin Moylan at MPR writes: “[A]n alliance of cash-strapped states and angry brick-and-mortar retailers like Best Buy, may finally prod Congress to close a loophole that lets online sales escape state sales taxes. After this holiday shopping season, the tax dodge could be on its way out. … Lost sales tax revenue amounts to as much as $400 million a year, said state Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans, Minnesota’s chief tax collector. That’s about as much as the Vikings say they’ll pay towards a new stadium. Frans said Minnesota probably faces another big budget deficit and can’t afford to let so much tax revenue get away. ‘We clearly have needs at the state and local level to fund government and we need to collect the revenue where it is due,’ he said.”
Speaking of … a Best Buy employee has picked up on momentum generated by that Target guy in Nebraska and is protesting his company’s Black Friday store hours. At the Strib, Wendy Lee says: “Rick Melaragni, who works for Best Buy in Florida, says it’s not right for the Minneapolis-based electronics retailer to require its employees to come in on Thanksgiving so that it can open its doors at midnight on Black Friday, instead of the traditional early-morning opening. ‘A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation — all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest on Thanksgiving!’ Melaragni wrote on his petition on change.org. On Thursday morning, the petition has received close to 7,500 signatures. … Best Buy said it will consider employee input on how it handles this and future holiday seasons. … Nearly 150,000 people have signed the Target petition asking the retailer to ‘save Thanksgiving.’ A petition asking Bank of America to rethink its decision to charge customers a $5 monthly debit card fee attracted more than 306,000 signatures. Some say the petition contributed to Bank of America’s decision not to implement the fee.” Vox populi, baby.
Archbishop John Nienstedt is moving up in the eyes of the national church. Says Rose French in her Strib blog: “[A]t the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops annual fall assembly, the bishops voted Nienstedt chairman-elect of the Committee on Doctrine. The committee assists bishops in areas of faith and morals of the Church. It collaborates with the other committees of the conference, providing expertise and guidance concerning theological issues that confront the Church in the U.S., according to the bishops’ group. The committee addresses issues relating to science and health care and ‘supports the bishops’ efforts in the area of development and review of Scripture translations.’ ” No comment.
The state’s latest unemployment numbers get a look from our Brad Allen here and from Bill Catlin at MPR: “The state’s employers cut 6,100 payroll jobs last month, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Still, the long-suffering construction industry added 1,700 jobs. That was the fourth monthly gain in the past half-year. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell half a percentage point to 6.4 percent last month. The rate fell in part because more people (5,457) quit looking for work. But more people (8,111) also reported they’d been paid for work during the month. Both have the effect of pushing down the jobless rate.”
That sale of tobacco revenue bonds, that windfall of cash that might have pushed Minnesota a bit farther down the path toward Eden on the prairies, has been finalized. Says the AP: “The finalized sale announced Thursday will generate a one-time infusion to temporarily close a state budget gap. But the debt will cost the state more than $1 billion to pay off over the next two decades. An exact cost wasn’t immediately available.”
I always wondered about all those RVs from Montana … Paul Walsh’s Strib story says: “Nearly 300 suspected cases of Minnesotans buying pricey recreational vehicles and then registering them in Montana to avoid paying sales tax have drawn the scrutiny of state investigators. The state Revenue Department said Wednesday that it has closed 22 of these cases without the need to bring charges and collected about $230,000 in taxes. The department said 270 more cases are being investigated. The Revenue Department said the tax dodge involves the RV owners setting up shell corporations in Montana — specifically, limited liability corporations — to evade paying sales tax. For a fee that is a fraction of what paying the tax in Minnesota would be, one online company offers to help out-of-state RV owners set up a limited liability company. Along with RVs, the company says it can do the same for cars and trucks, motorcycles, ATVs, boats and aircraft. The motor homes involved range in price from $150,000 to more than $1 million, the state said. The Minnesota tax on a $250,000 RV would top $16,000, but the tax bill in Montana would be zero.” Another testament — like Wyoming’s incorporation laws — to the great American entrepreneurial spirit.
The PiPress’ Jessica Fleming reports the Twin Cities ponied up $13.5 million in Wednesday’s “Give to the Max” drive: “Minnesota nonprofits pulled out all the stops Wednesday and raised $13.5 million during the local one-day online giving event ‘Give to the Max Day.’ ‘We started it, but thousands of Minnesota nonprofits have made it their own,’ said Dana Nelson, executive director of GiveMN.org, a website begun two years ago to help nonprofits collect donations. When the nonprofit GiveMN was launched in 2009, Nelson and her team staged the first Give to the Max Day to draw attention to the site and kick-start giving. To her surprise, donors gave more than $14 million to Minnesota charities that day. … The 2009 Give to the Max Day was the most successful place-based online fundraising drive in history, Nelson said. Three other states — Colorado, Nevada and Alabama — now hold similar events.”
It’s … really … dry when you have to dial it back 141 years to find anything like this. Andy Rathbun’s PiPress story says: “From September through today, only 1.06 inches of rain has been recorded at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. That’s 5.42 inches below what is considered normal, setting us up for possibly the driest autumn in 141 years of record-keeping, according to Pete Boulay, assistant state climatologist. If less than 0.48 inches of rain falls in November, the meteorological autumn — September through November — would be the driest on record in the Twin Cities. The autumn of 1889 currently holds the record, with 1.54 inches of precipitation. A bit of relief could come Saturday, with a mixture of rain and snow forecast for the metro.” Slush is a “relief”?
Today in Bachmannia: The foreign perspectives on Our Favorite Congresswoman are always pretty entertaining. Paul Harris in The Guardian looks at Ms. Bachmann’s latest attack on fellow Republicans and writes: “Here comes Michele Bachmann, the wacky far-right Minnesota congresswoman, who is trying to elbow her way back into contention as the Republican candidates who overtook her (Rick Perry and Herman Cain) stumble. Remember when Bachmann was the frontrunner? Yup, amazing as it sounds now, she was once the hottest thing in the GOP when she won the Ames straw poll in Iowa, back in August. Since then, its been a rapid decline to also-ran. … The Bachmann campaign is in trouble. Deep trouble, with her only hope being a shock strong showing in Iowa (her New Hampshire staff recently left en masse). Her time in the sun during this race feels like an aeon ago; a sort of conservative Golden Age that one suspects never really existed except in the minds of very, very old men. Since then, a withering media onslaught covering her more bizarre pronouncements, her husband’s odd work trying to counsel gays to not be gay any more by loving Jesus, and a series of poor debate performances have seen her plummet in the polls. But the good news is that pretty much all of the other Non-Romneys have had their hard times, too. Cain and Perry have imploded. Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman have failed to register. Ron Paul remains stuck with his fanatical support but no one else. Newt Gingrich is back, but for how long? … I am not sure how Bachmann intends to unify anyone apart from a rabid sliver of the Republican right. And, as for winning the GOP nomination and beating Obama, well, she is currently being trounced in the polls by a former pizza magnate who gets China and Iran confused (and don’t even mention Cain’s alleged sexual harassment shenanigans). Which sums up this ad entirely: it’s good at attacking the rest of the GOP field, but can anyone take seriously a campaign whose ad dare not talk about its own candidate, apart from to say: “Hey, at least she’s not one of these loonies.“