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Getting down to the details on the Southwest LRT plan

Proposed “nexus” sales tax criticized, too; owl “irruption” in Duluth; school bus-pass incidents; other states also weigh tax overhauls; electronic pull-tab “math”; and more.

Designers of the Southwest LRT line are into the nitty-gritty, says Jessica Mador of MPR: “Engineers are beginning to hammer out the design specifics. They’ve identified 25 technical issues they need to solve to make the design work. Topping the list is whether and how to move the line’s westernmost stations farther south. Eden Prairie city officials and some businesses have been lobbying for that change. Preliminary proposals have the line running through a commercial area along Technology Drive near a few large businesses. Some in the community have raised concerns the LRT could reduce access to those businesses. City Manager Rick Getschow said the city prefers moving the line south through a district more dense with housing and businesses. … The Southwest LRT is projected to $1.25 billion. Half of that is expected to come from the federal government.”

More criticism of Gov. Dayton’s business-related tax proposals, this one not from the Strib editorial page. In a commentary for the Duluth News Tribune, small businessman Bryan Hansel writes: “Dayton’s budget proposal includes something called an ‘affiliate nexus tax.’ The governor wants online retailers to collect sales taxes. In doing so, he equates independent marketers like me as ‘nexuses’ for online retailers. So when an Internet publisher who lives in Minnesota runs banner or hyperlink ads on his website, the new law would claim the independent website publication forms a retail hub for the online retailer whose ads appear there. Internet retailers should collect sales taxes. But based on the history of affiliate nexus taxes in other states, the flawed approach threatens the jobs of approximately 4,500 Minnesotans. Those 4,500 Minnesotans are affiliate marketers, also known as performance marketers. You may know them as bloggers or Internet magazine publishers; others run shopping-comparison websites and coupon websites.” Taxing bloggers! Where’s the Constitution when we need it?

You may qualify for free tax help … The Alexandria Echo Press posts a note saying: “More than 250 sites across Minnesota recently opened their doors to offer free assistance with filing income tax and property tax refund returns. Those eligible for assistance are senior citizens, disabled citizens, those who speak limited English and individuals with an income of $30,000 or less ($50,000 or less for families). The VITA program offers free tax assistance to low-to-moderate income individuals who cannot prepare their own tax returns.”

There’s an “irruption” in Duluth. Sam Cook of the News Tribune reports: “Northern Minnesota’s phenomenowl winter continues. Boreal owls and now great gray owls have come south from Canada’s boreal forest seeking food. Such a movement is called an ‘irruption’ by birders. But for some boreal owls, the winter is taking a tough turn. Several of the tiny owls, just a foot tall, have been found dead in or near Duluth, local birders say. Three dead boreals have been turned in to Hartley Nature Center.”

There are apparently some downsides to Minneapolis’ bus-pass program for schoolkids. Says Steve Brandt in the Strib: “Gary Vang remembers the sucker punch to his jaw that felled him at a north Minneapolis bus shelter one evening three weeks ago. But the concussion he suffered from the attack has blotted out what witnesses said happened next, when his attackers kicked him and his head slammed back against the window of the shelter. The junior is one of six Patrick Henry High School students assaulted while getting back and forth to school under a new program using Metro Transit buses instead of traditional school buses. The attacks ranged from gropings on a bus to a gunpoint robbery at a bus stop earlier this school year.”

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The GleanBrett Neely, MPR’s D.C. guy, writes about significant tax changes going on all over the country, including Minnesota: “Most of the nation’s governors are gathering in Washington, DC this weekend for an annual meeting of the National Governors Association. While not formally on the agenda, many states — at least a dozen — are in the middle of major tax overhauls. What’s prompting this spate of tax changes? One theory is that the political polarization that has gripped Washington has also led to Democrats and Republicans strengthening their hold over many statehouses. ‘There are many states with super-majorities now, so they can do big things,’ said Norton Francis, who researches state and local tax issues at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington.”

Oh, good god … Ed Treleven of the Wisconsin Journal writes: “A Mount Horeb police lieutenant had a months-long sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy who moved into his Madison apartment in October but told investigators that for months he did not know the boy’s true age, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday, Feb. 21.
Dennis P. Jenks, 44, was charged with repeated sexual assault of a child for allegedly carrying on the relationship with the boy between October and Feb. 13, when Jenks was arrested by Madison police. The complaint states that Jenks ‘no longer wanted to be in a romantic relationship” with the boy, but still wanted to be a mentoring “father figure’ to him. The boy, however, described Jenks as his ‘best friend’ and tearfully told police that he loved Jenks.”

Did you see The Onion’s “op-ed” from the Hayden Lake drunken baby-slapper? “I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that air travel can be stressful. Crowded flights rarely bring out the best in people, and that’s why common courtesy is so important. If you’ve ever been on a plane where a parent blatantly disregards that courtesy and lets her little black kid cry his lungs out in the seat next to you, then you’ve probably been pretty aggravated, much as I was on a recent flight to Atlanta. And yet somehow — don’t ask me how — for some reason I’ve come out of this whole episode as the bad guy. … The thing that really kills me, though, is how unnecessary all this attention was. … That’s right, the greedy Jewish media vultures just swooped in and made sure that I looked like some kind of monster. Me: a decent, normal guy on his fifth bourbon, trying to enjoy his flight.” Warning: Some readers will absolutely be offended by vernacular elsewhere in the piece.

On his blog The Deets, Ed Kohler amuses himself with the unlikelihood of success of electronic pull-tabs: “Here are the assumptions that went into convincing the legislature that gamblers could be exploited at a high enough level to pay $348 million plus interest share of an NFL subsidy:
E-pulltabs devices: 15,400
Revenue/day/device: $225
Revenue/day/location: $1,400
Devices/location: 6.2 (just dividing the above figures to get this).
They also mentioned that having e-pulltabs running in 2,500 bars was a conceivable goal by October 2013.
To hit 2,500 active venues by October, they’ll need to install nearly 200 per month. As of Feb 15th, 168 locations have games installed. … Some of the top performing locations only have 4 devices, which may support my theory that the only way e-pulltabs will work is if they become attractive to problem gamblers. … Porky’s Bar on Payne ranked #2 for e-pulltabs revenue in January, so we’re literally taking money out of St Paul’s East Side to subsidize Zygi Wilf’s Park Ave condo.”  What do you suggest, Ed, asking the cash-strapped NFL to take out a loan?