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Republicans shift focus from health care to tax reform

Plus: 2018 health insurance rate requests to be released; Hillcrest just latest east metro golf course casualty; another Wells Fargo scandal; the cost of Wisconsin’s Foxconn jobs; and more.

Rep. Erik Paulsen
MinnPost file photo by Bill Kelley

After health care, can they keep the winning streak going with tax “reform”? Maya Rao of the Strib says, “Republican lawmakers are heading back to their home districts for the August break to promote plans to reshape the federal tax code, fresh off the collapse of their party’s efforts to overhaul the health care system. Legislators hope the GOP can rally and pull together better than it did on the push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. ‘I think it’s obvious that there were some lessons learned from health care’, said U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, a Republican from Eden Prairie who voted for the health care bill in the House. ‘It’s not good to have competing versions. You don’t need to have artificial deadlines to pass bills. It’s better to get the policy right’.” Better yet, it might be a good idea to have, you know, an actual policy.

Entirely related, Christopher Snowbeck of the Strib says, “People who buy health insurance on their own are about to experience what’s become a dreary summer ritual — the first look at next year’s premiums. The state Commerce Department on Monday is scheduled to release preliminary rate requests from health insurers for the roughly 170,000 people who buy individual policies. Insurance agents say they aren’t expecting a repeat of the 50 percent increases posted last year. But they do anticipate large premium jumps in the market, while pointing out the increases could be knocked back by a new state program designed to cushion insurers from expensive medical claims.” Vows to “let it implode” will no doubt help keep costs in line.

I knew there was a reason I stopped playing. Says Joe Bissen of the PiPress, “Hillcrest Golf Club in St. Paul recently announced it will be closing on Oct. 31. Here are 16 other golf courses in the east metro and nearby area that have closed since 2000: All Seasons, Cottage Grove; The Bridges of Mounds View; Brockway, Rosemount; Carriage Hills, Eagan; Country Air, Lake Elmo; Country View, Maplewood; Maple Hills, Maplewood; Mulligan Masters, Lake Elmo; Oakdale Par 3, Oakdale; Orchard Gardens, Burnsville; Parkview, Eagan; Silver Springs, Monticello.”

A couple Wells Fargo items. From late last week, Laura Keller at Bloomberg reported, “Fraudulent bank accounts, bogus credit cards, compromised customer data and, now, unwanted car insurance. Wells Fargo & Co, it seems, just can’t stay out of trouble. News late this week that the lender may have charged more than 500,000 people for auto insurance they didn’t need has raised uncomfortable questions for the bank, including the big one: What will it take to clean up Wells Fargo?”  As long as the stock price holds up, nothing.

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Now, another Bloomberg story says, “ … the lender, struggling to overcome a fake-accounts scandal in its community bank, said the division’s new leader is cutting about 70 senior executive jobs. The lender will reduce the number of regional and area presidents to 91, Mary Mack, head of the retail bank, said Friday in a memo to staff, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg. Bank spokeswoman Bridget Braxton confirmed the contents of the memo and said employees whose positions are eliminated will remain staff members for 60 days until further steps are decided. Most of the remaining managers will be re-titled as region bank presidents with direct responsibility for more employees than before, in a move aimed at reducing management levels across the branch network, Mack wrote. Across its 10 geographical divisions, Wells Fargo previously employed 160 regional and area presidents.”

Following that big Foxconn assembly plant announcement in Wisconsin, Mark Sommerhauser of the Wisconsin State Journal says, “ … the economic infusion promised by Foxconn carries an unprecedented pricetag: $3 billion over 15 years, or $200 million a year, in state tax incentives. That excludes local incentives to fund infrastructure improvements, details for which have not been released. It marks Wisconsin’s biggest entry yet in the state-to-state bidding war for splashy economic-development deals, in which tax incentives are the chief currency. … the amount per job that Wisconsin is offering Foxconn dwarfs incentives given for large development projects in many other states, said Timothy Bartik, who has studied state tax incentives for three decades at the nonprofit W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Mich. ‘The amount they’re paying per job is very, very high,’ Bartik said. ‘I’m skeptical that the benefits justify the cost.’”

Rick Barrett of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is more upbeat. “Once the $10 billion plant opens — it’s projected to begin producing very high-definition LCD screens in 2020 — Taiwan-based Foxconn says it will make $4.26 billion in supplier purchases annually, about one-third of them within Wisconsin. It’s an enormous amount of money that could flow through area businesses, whether they’re suppliers of advanced technologies, such as robotics and automation software, or more basic things like paper towels for factory bathrooms. Think of Foxconn as a virtual village, with the factory as its town hall. It’s likely to spawn many new businesses, said Dan Steininger, cofounder of BizStarts, a Milwaukee organization that assists emerging companies.”

At this writing the hunt is still on. Paul Walsh and Pat Pheifer of the Strib say, “Beverly Cory, 48, ‘senselessly lost her life’ Saturday when she was shot inside an office building on a commercial plaza near Hwy. 110 and Interstate 35E, according to Linda K. Johnson. … Authorities remain on the hunt for the suspect, identified by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) as Lucifer V. Nguyen, 44. Nguyen is described as East Asian, about 5 foot 5 and 150 pounds. The BCA said his last known address was in Minneapolis, but recent court records out of Wisconsin list a New Hope address. His criminal history in Minnesota includes convictions for misdemeanor theft, careless driving and drunken driving. He is scheduled to appear in a Superior, Wis., courtroom on Aug. 18 in connection with felony battery and illicit drug allegations.”