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Electronic pull-tab revenue is nowhere near projections

Sales tax rankings; rural wood-burning district heating; Rep. Hamilton rips metro focus; Endo the dog’s amazing journey; whiskey on the prairie; and more.

The word “lagging” seems to be umbilically linked to every discussion of electronic pull-tab revenues. Tim Nelson at MPR says: “Revenues since pull-tabs started on Sept. 18 have fallen far short of the $100 million monthly target experts initially set for the games. Last month, disappointing revenues prompted state finance officials to cut the expected stadium cash they’d have on hand by half. The most current data from the Minnesota Gambling Control Board show Minnesotans only played a total of $4.1 million worth of the games through the end of 2012. By New Year’s Eve, there were just 386 machines up and running, a fraction of the 15,400 electronic pull-tab devices projected to be eventually in play. The existing machines each are grossing $180 a day — again short of the projected $225 daily take — grossing less per day than the experts’ projection made when the stadium financing plan was being worked on last spring.”

In the TC Daily Planet, Minnesota 2020’s Jeff van Wychen looks closer at the effect of expanding the sales tax to clothing: “Over the last decade, some legs of the stool grew longer (specifically property taxes), signifying increased dependence on these tax types, while others shrunk. The shortest leg of Minnesota’s tax stool is the sales tax, comprising just 26.7% of combined property, income, and sales tax revenue in 2012 — down from 32.3% a decade earlier.The decline in Minnesota sales tax revenue — both in constant dollars and relative to the other two major taxes — is due in large part to the narrow base against which the tax is levied. The sales tax in Minnesota is applied almost exclusively to goods (with exemptions for food, clothing, and many other items). Almost all services are exempt. … it is possible to expand the sales tax base to include the items described above and lower the state sales tax rate by a full one percent (from 6.875% to 5.875%)† and still generate over $2 billion in new state revenue. A one percent drop in Minnesota’s sales tax rate would be sufficient to reduce Minnesota’s state sales tax ranking from 7th highest in the nation to 28th.”

Wood-burning district heating?  In Midwest Energy News, Dan Haugen writes: “Cheap natural gas prices have pushed many biomass projects to the back burner in recent years, but it’s a different story in rural communities without access to pipelines. In northern Minnesota, two towns are considering their next steps after preliminary studies showed that small, wood-burning district heating systems could have economic and environmental benefits — if they can find a way to finance the up-front construction costs. Grand Marais, on the north shore of Lake Superior, and Ely, on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, currently rely on fuel oil or propane for heat.”

GOP Rep. Rod Hamilton says in a commentary for the Worthington Daily Globe:People who believed rural Minnesota wouldn’t be impacted by an all-Democrat legislature might be surprised to learn what’s in store for them over the next two years. Most Minneapolis lawmakers spend their careers thinking the only important activities happen within the metro area, and telling folks in Greater Minnesota how to live. With 22 out of 29 House committee chairs hailing from the Metro Area and inner cities, talk is being replaced with action. One of the areas of greatest concern is agriculture, where one in five Minnesotans holds a job that’s directly or indirectly related to agriculture. It’s a vital part of the Minnesota economy, and we can credit agriculture for carrying the state through our previously difficult economic times. So why is the Minnesota House majority trying to minimize agriculture’s importance?” And where is the Chamber of Commerce in this fight?

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The GleanEndo the dog really gets around. From Kelly Creswell at CNN: “All of Endo’s life he’s been rescued. Denise and her husband took in the mastiff after his owners couldn’t care for him anymore. Somehow in May 2011 he escaped his fenced in backyard in Cape Coral [Florida]. Endo was about to embark on a nearly 2,000 mile journey. … He was first spotted wandering around a gas station in Myakka City, [Fl]. … Assuming Endo’s owners had abandoned the pup, a friend picked up Endo and agreed to meet him in Chattanooga. Tucker [Carlson] drove his new buddy back up to his home in St. Paul, Minnesota. But this past November Tucker’s condo association made him surrender Endo. So Endo was passed along to a family friend in Duluth, Minnesota. Then passed to another owner in Superior, Wisconsin. ‘He was on a farm over the holidays and had gotten away and then was picked back up,’ said Tucker. And Endo ended up at a shelter in Duluth where his microchip traced him back to Cape Coral.” Endo might get back to Cape Coral before next week’s arctic blast.

It’s a long ways from Scotland … . Amy Chaffins of the Forum papers says: “Panther Distillery, Minnesota’s first and only legal whiskey distillery, has bottled its first batch of White Water Whiskey, which hit local liquor shelves last week. ‘We started bottling by hand around Christmas, and now, we’ll meet with our sales team to start going statewide,’ said Master Distiller Brett Grinager. … The distillery opened last summer, and staff started barreling signature whiskey and bourbon liquors, which will be aged two years and ready in spring of 2014. In the meantime, they are producing White Water Whiskey – a clear, unaged whiskey-flavored liquor made from corn. There are also plans to make a gin, rye whiskey and rum-flavored liquor made from locally grown sugar beets. The distillery sources its ingredients locally.” I’ll be passing on the soy bean single malt.

Do NOT mess with this gal … WCCO-TV reports: “A 24-year-old Mankato woman is accused of having two men assault her husband after they got into an argument at their home over bills, according to charges filed in Blue Earth County Court. Ashley Alexandra Stillwell was charged in Blue Earth County Court with one felony count of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon in connection with the Jan. 8 incident. … The victim told police that the day before, he got into an argument with Stillwell over bills and she left the residence. The victim was at home with his three children when she returned. Stillwell came back with two men, whom the victim told to leave. They told the man they weren’t going anywhere. The victim then told police the next thing he knew, one of the men swung a baseball bat and hit him in the face under his right eye, the complaint states. Stillwell was apparently screaming, ‘Not in front of my babies.’ ” Always the protective mother …

This’ll draw a crowd … Chris Riemenschneider of the Strib says: “With his own place apparently already booked, Prince has lined up three “soundcheck” rehearsals at the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant this Wednesday through Friday night. The news broke this morning via the fan site Dr. Funkenberry and is more or less confirmed on the Dakota’s ticketing site, which lists prices ranging from $70 on Wednesday on up to $200-$250 for Friday’s show. So Prince won’t be the only one hoping these test jams improve exponentially from night-to-night. Tickets are expected to go on sale at 11 a.m. today. Word is he’s doing these shows at the intimate Minneapolis jazz joint instead of his palatial Paisley Park in Chanhassen because the band behind the mega-hit ‘We Are Young’, fun., is already booked to rehearse there this week to prep for its tour that starts next Wednesday at Roy Wilkins Auditorium.”

The stated goal is “lower costs” … Dee DePass of the Strib says: “The Mayo Clinic and UnitedHealth Group will join in an alliance to merge medical records and share research in an attempt to improve the efficiency of care delivery, company officials said Tuesday.
UnitedHealth officials said the new venture will focus on ‘fundamental issues that may help standardize care’ in the hopes of lowering costs. Veronique Roger, who heads Mayo Clinic’s Center for Science of Health Delivery, said in a statement that the partnership could focus on such things as analyzing the steps needed for successful hip replacement surgery or ways to get patients to consistently take their medications.”