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In study on tax fairness, Minnesota looks … fair

Plus: DFL bill would get rid of MNsure board; Vikings are going on an art-buying spree; former deputy chief of police in Minneapolis sues city over demotion; and more.

The 47 percent aren’t getting a fair shake, says a new study. In The Washington Post, Niraj Shoshi reports, “State taxes favor those with the highest incomes. That’s according to a new report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy report, which finds that on average the bottom fifth of earners pay proportionally twice as much of their incomes in state and local taxes as the top 1 percent. Such systems that are skewed toward the poor are also less stable in the long run, given the decades-long trends of growing income inequality, the report’s authors argue. … While Delaware’s income tax is not particularly progressive, it’s heavy reliance on income taxes instead of consumption taxes make its system the least regressive overall. Though not comparable to a state, D.C. ranks as the next least regressive tax system, followed by California, Oregon, Montana and Vermont. D.C., Minnesota and Vermont make their tax systems fairer by providing generous refundable Earned Income Tax Credits to lower-wage earners.” Overall, Minnesota is 45th most “unfair.” South Dakota? Fourth. Which is to say, great for millionaires.

Speaking of neighbors. Dave Zweifel,  the editor emeritus of Madison’s Capital Times, writes: “While [Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker] claims to have saved the state from former Gov. Jim Doyle’s $3.6 billion budget deficit, he actually enters the new biennium — comparing apples to apples — with a $2 billion deficit himself. At least Doyle had the excuse of trying to balance the budget during the country’s biggest recession since the 1930s. Walker should have been riding the wave of the greatest recovery in two decades.”

Clean the slate and start over. Christopher Snowbeck at the Strib says, “Senate DFLers have introduced a bill that would eliminate the MNsure board, and create a new state department to manage Minnesota’s health insurance exchange. … Under the bill, the governor would have a clearer line of authority over the exchange, [Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick] said, while the Legislature would have more direct oversight for MNsure’s budget. The legislation is not an indictment of the current seven-member board, he said.” Of course not, no one would think that.

The Feds are kicking back $26 million for conservation. The Strib’s Josephine Marcotty writes, “The Red River, the imperiled golden-winged warbler and environmentally minded Minnesota farmers all will benefit from $26 million in new federal funding designed to boost conservation and clean up agricultural water pollution in the state. The three projects, which all must provide significant matching funds from other sources over the next five years, are part of a revamped $370 million program announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s conservation arm.”

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Ebola. It’s so election-season 2014. The AP says, “State health officials say they won’t be done watching for the spread of Ebola for at least another year. The Minnesota Department of Health is currently monitoring 47 residents who traveled from the West African countries ravaged by the deadly virus. As of Sunday, the state had cleared 216 travelers after a 21-day monitoring period. No cases have been confirmed in Minnesota. Health officials updated state lawmakers on their Ebola prevention efforts Wednesday. The department will ask the Legislature for about $900,000 to cover Ebola-related costs through June of this year.”

Cliffs, big Cleveland-based mining operator is scaling back to just Minnesota and Michigan. Says John Myers of the Forum News Service. “[Lourenco] Goncalves has been the chief executive officer of Cliffs just since August, but he’s already making headlines as he tries to shed debt as well as money-losing foreign operations to save the company’s U.S.-based taconite iron ore mines and processing plants. ‘Cliffs will be a 100 percent U.S.-focused operation; Minnesota and Michigan,’ Goncalves said in a telephone interview Tuesday. ‘That’s where the money is. That’s where we can be a profitable and sustainable business.’”

Ok, let’s think about Vikings stadium-appropriate art. At MPR, Tim Nelson reports, “The Vikings plan to purchase as many as 100 works of original art for the new stadium. Team officials say the art-buying spree will amount to a multimillion dollar upgrade to the $1 billion stadium’s amenities. Minnesota-made works will be the focus, said Tanya Dreesen, who’s leading the art project for the team. ‘You’re going to see different treatments, from wall graphics to original commissioned pieces to photographs,’ she said. ‘And you’re going to see them throughout the concourses.’ I’m thinking: a statue of Randy Moss mooning the stands molded out of recycled e-pulltab machines.

Rochester is thinking very big about its makeover into a “destination medical center.” But check out the salaries projected for those guiding the plan(s). MPR’s Elizabeth Baier says, “But before planning can really get rolling, there’s the matter of who’s going to pay for the bureaucracy needed to make it work. In the first five years, it will take $21 million to pay the salaries and other operational expenses for the two governing boards created by the Legislature in 2013, the Mayo Clinic-led Economic Development Agency and the Destination Medical Center Corporation.”

Inevitably: Peter Cox of MPR writes, “The Minneapolis Police Department’s former deputy chief of patrol has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and Police Chief Janeé Harteau over a recent demotion. Eddie Frizell, who ran unsuccessfully for Hennepin County Sheriff after 22 years with Minneapolis police, was demoted to commander of operations and administration when his position was eliminated in November.”

Yeah, just because you’re using drugs or have skipped out on a warrant doesn’t mean you don’t have your precious Second Amendment rights. Abby Simons of the Strib says, “The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) quickly shelved a new series of firearm permit-to-carry applications this week for overstepping the bounds of what questions law enforcement can ask residents who apply to purchase or carry a gun. When the updated 2015 Minnesota Uniform Firearm Application Permits went out to law enforcement agencies last week, gun rights advocates quickly cried foul over a questionnaire that asked, among other things, if applicants had served in the military, used drugs or ever fled the state to avoid prosecution. Advocates said the questions violated applicants’ privacy and created a needless hurdle to exercising Second Amendment rights to bear arms.”