Social Security tax break still in the mix at the Capitol

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

A Social Security tax break. Bill Salisbury of the PiPress says, “Some 367,000 Minnesota seniors have a stake in a tax-cut debate going on at the Capitol this week. The Republican-controlled House wants to phase out income taxes on all Social Security income. The Senate Democratic-Farmer-Labor majority opposes that tax break as a threat to the state’s future fiscal stability. The outcome of that dispute rests in the hands of five senators and five House members who serve on a conference committee that is trying to split the difference between the $2.2 billion in tax cuts the House approved and the $268 million in tax relief offered by the Senate.”

Damned feedlots. In a Strib commentary, Sonja Eayrs writes, “During the past year, my family has learned firsthand the failings of county officials and feedlot operators to address the environmental impact of factory farms. Easy permitting of these projects is par for the course in Dodge County. The Dodge County Planning Commission, aka ‘the feedlot commission’ — consisting of seven members, six of whom are registered feedlot operators — quickly approved the controversial factory farm near my parents’ farm a second time in December 2014, following vacation of the first conditional-use permit by a district judge. It was time to take action — legal action.”

The Strib is officially opposed to “microbeads.” The paper’s editorial board says, “It’s time for Minnesota to take a big step in fighting a tiny new form of water pollution: plastic ‘microbeads.’ These almost-too-small-to-see particles are added to skin scrubs, toothpaste and other personal-care products as an exfoliant or abrasive, with each individual package containing thousands or even hundreds of thousands of microbeads. The trouble is that microbeads don’t disintegrate when they’re washed off. Nor are most municipal water treatment plants designed to remove them. As a result, microbeads are washing into waterways across the nation, with scientists increasingly sounding the alarm about potential impacts.” So not only a colder, but also a less beautiful Omaha?

Miriam Jordan of the Wall Street Journal comes out to see ISIS’ appeal on the campus of the Minneapolis Community and Technical College. “At this modern campus, which puts many in this city’s large Somali-American population on the path to the middle class, students and faculty are searching for answers. Of particular concern is the apparent disconnect between the men’s past and present, and why joining Islamic State, widely known as ISIS, holds such appeal.”

Generally speaking, you want to avoid buying anything from anyone under indictment. So Nick Woltman at the PiPress says, “The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy is warning the state’s prescription drug retailers and wholesalers that drugs they bought through Minnesota Independent Cooperative may be mislabeled or adulterated. MIC, an Eagan-based wholesaler, was indicted last week in federal court in Ohio on charges of mail fraud and conspiring to sell prescription drugs from illegal, unlicensed sources to other wholesalers and pharmacies. The Board of Pharmacy sent an email Monday to Minnesota pharmacists and drug wholesalers alerting them to the allegations against MIC, said Cody Wiberg, the board’s executive director.”

After Jeb Bush said he’d do exactly what his brother did in Iraq, this may be the smarter career move. Patrick Condon at the Strib reports, “Matthew Pagano, the political director for the Minnesota Republican Party, is leaving his post at the end of the month and moving to Iowa to work for a political action committee supporting Rand Paul’s presidential bid. … Pagano said his work for the PAC, which he was not ready to identify publicly, would initially focus on helping Paul to do well in the straw poll.” Lord knows it did wonders for Our Favorite Congresswoman.

Fast outta the blocks. At MPR, Paul Huttner says, “It’s been a fast start to spring in Minnesota. I can’t remember a nicer spring, a year with more mild sunny days. Apparently I’m not imagining things. Most Minnesota crops are off the the fastest start in 30 years. … Crop planting and emergence is way ahead of the five-year averages, and miles ahead of last year’s monsoonal spring planting season.”

Goin’ electronic. At KARE-TV Rena Sarigianopoulos says, “Minnesota drivers will soon be able to ditch their insurance cards. Not the insurance, just the card. Both the Minnesota House and Senate have unanimously passed bills that would allow drivers to show electronic proof of insurance.”

Really? Nancy Madsen of the Mankato Free Press writes, “Medical students could replace the elementary and junior high students now teeming through an old school building in Gaylord, a south-central Minnesota town of 2,300. The Gaylord City Council has approved working with Danza Group of Middletown, N.Y., which redeveloped the former Horton Hospital there into a medical school for Touro College. That project took three years — students began classes in August. … The preliminary plan is to convert the school’s 125,000 square feet classrooms and other learning centers and add student dorms that would eventually provide housing for more than 300 students.” Everything and everyone is fully vetted, yes?

You thought I was joking. Mere days after every paper on the continent leveled thousands of acres of forest blathering on about who was going to be picked by who and why, a 2016 NFL mock draft has concluded that the Vikings will dump Adrian Peterson and select … Ezekiel Elliot. Brandon Katz at HNGN.com says, “WalterFootball.com projects Minnesota to select Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot with the No. 19 overall pick next year. Now projections this far out almost never end up being accurate, but the Vikings are a very solid team and can expect a leap from second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater. If they do end up in the back half of round one then a running back become more reasonable. Two were selected in the first-round this year, after all.” I mean, there’s fantasy football and then there’s delusional football.

I smell a parking rate increase. Tim Nelson of MPR says, “The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is poised to set a new minimum wage, $1 above the state wage floor, effective in August. That’s the recommendation going before the Metropolitan Airports Commission, published in advance of a regular meeting at the airport scheduled for Monday. The new regulation would be implemented through new contract conditions between the MAC and vendors that are licensed to provide services to travelers and airlines at MSP. It will mean at least a $10 minimum hourly wage this year for thousands of airport workers, which Gov. Mark Dayton said he supported back in March.”

What’s the opposite of “Live long and prosper”? Stribbers Pamela Miller and Mary Lynn Smith report, “Two men have been arrested in connection with the death of 90-year-old Earl Olander, who was found bound and beaten in his ransacked San Francisco Township farmhouse on April 11, the Carver County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday. Sheriff Jim Olson said in a news release that a tip from a citizen led to the arrests of the two, who are being held in the Carver County jail. They are likely to be charged Wednesday, he said. Olson plans a 4 p.m. news conference Wednesday to talk about the case.”  

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/13/2015 - 08:08 am.

    Taxing gramma and grandpa

    You’ll notice that none of the 14 states that impose tax on Social Security income (Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia) are among the retirement states where you’ll find thousands of former Minnesotans who’ve escaped at their earliest possible convenience.

    Yet the democrats claim that failing to tax grandma and grandpa represents “a threat to the state’s future fiscal stability.” It’s like the state is punishing those who are trapped and can’t afford to leave as surrogate whipping boys of those who did. Or like when Castro would punish the families left behind of those who managed to escape his island.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 05/13/2015 - 11:46 am.

      How much does it cost to escape?

      Any MN individual whose income (including SS) is less than $25,000/year, or $32,000 for married couples, doesn’t pay tax on their SS benefits as things are now. As incomes go up above that, the SS portion is taxed on a “sliding-scale” percent that starts at 50% and tops out at 85%.

      Eliminating the tax (which would be fine with me) would cost the state something like $125 million a year, $250 per biennium, I believe. As usual, the question always is, if it’s eliminated, how would that be balanced? Where would the money come from to make that up? And, as usual, those who advocate getting rid of the tax on SS, or any other tax, as far as that goes, never seem to think about or answer that, other than to assume and say it would come from “wasteful and unnecessary state spending,” without getting specific about what those things are.

      But all that aside, when it comes to being “trapped” in Minnesota because of the taxes on SS benefits, that sounds a little far-fetched. People may be “trapped,” but I doubt it has much to do with the tax on their benefits because, if people ARE paying taxes on them, they have way more than enough income to travel to, and take up residence just about anyplace they’d like. And if they can’t afford that (for whatever reason – like a mortgage payment on a house they can’t or don’t want to sell, or some other form of debt), it’s unlikely the relatively small amount of increased income they’d have if the tax was eliminated would finance their escape.

  2. Submitted by ALAN BELISLE on 05/13/2015 - 09:40 am.

    SS tax

    Ever since the “Great Recession”, when Big Money found a way to lower wages and interest rates, seniors have been suffering diminishing returns on their savings. We could really use some help in the form of a tax break. How to pay for it? There is an easy source, but I doubt any politician has the guts to propose it. People who have children get the most benefit from government programs and education yet pay the least, due to the large deductions that they get for their kids. Cut those deductions and that would free up more revenue which could pay for the SS tax break. Simple and fair. Why should seniors with no kids have to pay about 1/3 of their property taxes for schools? I am happy to chip in some for education, to benefit society as a whole, but I don’t think I should have to pay as much as a family with 4 kids in school.

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/13/2015 - 11:19 am.

    I Strongly Suspect

    That all the retired folk who live around my region,…

    up here in the Central Minnesota Lakes Area,…

    (though some of them do go South for part of the winter),…

    would wonder what our “conservative” friends are talking about,…

    when they say there’s a huge number of citizens that leave “home” as soon as they retire.

    A lot of these folks actually moved NORTH from the metro area when they retired, NOT South.

    MOST of these folk even think it’s fair that they should continue to bear part of the cost of the state and local governments and infrastructures that they, and their children and grandchildren depend on day to day.

    I suspect those folk who go charging South and change their permanent residency when they do retiree are the ones looking for a place where everyone ELSE pays their share of the cost of everything,…

    i.e. the ones looking for a free lunch and free ride,…

    although I suspect a detailed statistical analysis of states that tax SSI and states that don’t would reveal that about the same proportion of folk head South when they retire from both types of states,…

    because, with a few previously-noted exceptions, they’re not leaving because of taxes,…

    they’re leaving because they can’t or don’t want to deal with winter anymore,…

    and to be honest, if they’re leaving to escape paying their fair share of our Minnesota civilization,…

    something which we’re WELL known for, internationally,…

    we’re very likely better off without them.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/13/2015 - 12:59 pm.

    Grandma and Grandpa 2.0

    I can’t speak for the other states he listed, but Mr. Tester might want to note that, while it may be true that Colorado taxes Social Security income, it’s also true that Colorado exempts from income taxation the first $20,000 of income from a recognized retirement plan, such as Social Security. This particular grandpa found that he was money ahead – way ahead – to pay the income tax on his Social Security benefit and happily take that $20,000 exemption.

    And, just for the sake of conversation – and assuming Mr. Tester is correct about “thousands” of Minnesotans fleeing to other states where Social Security benefits are not taxed (an interesting and amusing visual image) – it occurs to me that there might be *other* reasons why someone would leave Minnesota that have nothing to do with the state’s tax structure.

  5. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 05/13/2015 - 02:30 pm.

    Forgot or Purposely ignoring?

    It seems Dennis overlooked thew recent story on the vast number of retirees who are remaining in Minnesota. So apparently these people aren’t fleeing anywhere. Maybe it’s because, unlike some, most people realize there’s more to choice of residence than taxes.

  6. Submitted by Pat Berg on 05/13/2015 - 03:00 pm.

    The list

    Dennis’ list of states: “Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia”

    Ah yes – a veritable catalog of “fun in the sun” locales where one goes to be well-tanned and scantily clad all year ’round with nary a need for a snow shovel . . . .

    ‘Nuff said.

  7. Submitted by Joe Smithers on 05/13/2015 - 03:49 pm.

    Feedlots

    Sorry Ms. Eayrs but you are incorrect. The only things polluted are our court systems with your frivolous lawsuits and the papers with your uneducated letters and articles. The CUP the feedlot was granted does not guarantee the person to construct a feedlot. A further permit through either the County Feedlot Officer or MPCA if the feedlot meets the animal unit threshold would also be necessary and would require the technical review of all plans and specifications, soil survey, and manure management plan among other things that you seem to think the planning commission needs to review in order to approve the use of the land for a feedlot. Not one person on the planning commission is trained or educated to review these materials which is why they leave it up to the people who are (CFO/MPCA). A feedlot in ag zoned land is a good use of the land and as long as it meets zoning setbacks has zero reasons to not be approved. Dodge county has a relatively low amount of feedlots while being mostly ag land so it would seem to be a good fit with plenty of room for more feedlots. Water use is under DNR control entirely not county so the county has zero say in that at all and does not approve/deny based on it. Further, your use of the phrase “factory farm” is nothing but inflammatory language used to create an emotional response. Do you drive a car made in a factory? I think you probably do and probably own many things made in factories. There simply is nothing wrong with factories although in this case the feedlot in question is a “family” farm even though the people who own it will not live there. They have the right to put their barn where they can make use of the manure on their fields rather than incur further expense having to travel further to land apply it. People like Ms. Eayrs need to educate themselves before coming to such silly conclusions and would do better if they actually listened rather than filing silly lawsuits. Ms. Eayrs can provide no proof at all that a farm like this will pollute anything.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 05/13/2015 - 05:19 pm.

      Factory-produced goods

      Last time I checked, cars were not living, breathing beings.

      Factories are fine for the mass production of inanimate objects. For living beings, not so much.

      • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 05/14/2015 - 10:17 am.

        factories

        Last time I checked a farm owned by a family was still a family farm. Calling it a factory farm is simply inflammatory and looking for an emotional response. The propaganda against larger farms is misplaced since larger farms have been proven to be more efficient and better environmentally than smaller farms since they are under stricter rules and under a microscope by both public and regulators. It’s just silly for people to oppose a farm based on size in the first place. Being opposed to one is simply misplaced morality you think might be better but really isn’t. There isn’t one bit of data anywhere that says small farms are better in any way. To say factories are fine for inanimate objects but not for livestock is a antiquated notion. It would be overly restrictive and unconstitutional to force farms to only be up to a certain size because of some ones inaccurate belief that smaller farms are somehow better.

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