Minnesota’s property taxes: where democracy gets personal and gritty

One thing you can say for sure about property taxes in Minnesota: They have soared in recent years.

The debate begins with questions of why.

With this particular tax, the buck never seems to stop. Cities and counties point to the State Capitol, saying that cuts in aid to local governments have left them with little choice but to bump up property taxes. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his supporters point right back, insisting those local entities should slash spending instead.

Pity the poor voter trying to pin down a candidate on this complicated issue. There are so many pieces of Minnesota’s property-tax system, so many different levels of government involved, and so many important functions — from schools to parks to police — supported by the tax.

Still, it accounts for a big chunk of the total taxes we pay in Minnesota — about $8.3 billion this year. Of our Big Three Taxes, it ranks ahead of the sales tax and roughly equal to the personal income tax.

So, in this third installment of MinnPost’s tax series, we’ll look at the crux of the arguments. You can find the first article in our series here and the second one here.

Who pays?
Almost every Minnesota household pays property taxes: Homeowners pay, of course, and cabin owners too. Renters pay, but their landlords also pick up a big share of the tax for their buildings.

Without the property tax refund, the burden would fall severely on the lowest income Minnesotans. Even with the refund and a class adjustment for high-value homes, it’s regressive, according to the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s latest Tax Incidence Study. [PDF]


State and local taxes Minnesotans paid in FY 2009

State and local taxes Minnesotans paid in FY 2009
Source: Minnesota House of Representatives, Fiscal Analysis Dept.

In 2006, the effective tax rate for the 10 percent of Minnesotans with the lowest household incomes ($9,782 and under) was 4.2 percent. The rate was just 1.3 percent for taxpayers at the top of the income ladder ($123,938 and higher).

There’s a regional component to the who-pays question. If you live in a metro area, you are paying for more of your local government services through the property tax than residents of greater Minnesota.

As for businesses, property taxes are the largest single burden of all state and local taxes. But business owners are partially shielded from local property tax increases because the state levy accounts for the bulk of their bill and it isn’t rising in tandem with local taxes.

Pushed problems to local governments
The parameters of the property-tax debate were sharply defined last week in give and take over a report published by the left-leaning think tank Minnesota 2020.

From 2002 to 2010 Minnesota’s property taxes jumped by 26.8 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars, a faster average annual growth than had been seen in at least a generation, says the report by Jeff Van Wychen. He has worked as a fiscal analyst for the city of Minneapolis and the League of Minnesota Cities.

Homeowners have shouldered a hefty share of the increase. And their burden would grow even heavier next year as school districts across the state bid for a new round of levy increases.

The added weight in your property tax bill can’t be explained by extravagant spending increases in schools, city halls and county board offices. In the last eight years, state aid to local government declined by $2.6 billion in constant 2010 dollars, the report said. And local property taxes replaced about two-thirds of that loss.

In other words, cities, counties, schools and other local entities closed a significant share of the gap on their own by spending down reserves, cutting services and learning to operate more efficiently.

“During the last eight years, the state has pushed its budget problems off to local governments, forcing both service cuts and property tax increases,” the MN 2020 report concludes.

In particular, it takes aim at Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s “no new taxes” policy, saying it has “led to more regressive taxes at the local level and deep cuts in education, infrastructure and public services.”


Source: Minnesota House of Representatives, Fiscal Analysis Dept.

Finding new strategies
Not so, said the St. Paul Chamber Area Chamber of Commerce in a sharply worded rebuttal. The chamber didn’t argue with the finding that property taxes have skyrocketed. Its beef was with blaming state cuts in aid to local governments.

“While these cuts may be part of the equation, cities, counties and school districts have a responsibility to find new ways of doing business that put the taxpayers’ interests first,” Chamber President Matt Kramer said in the statement.

He argues that local governments could save taxpayers considerable sums if they would share more services.

Some are going for the sharing idea. For example, Arden Hills, Shoreview, Vadnais Heights, Gem Lake, White Bear Township, Little Canada and North Oaks are contracting with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services.

Other entities, though, have “clung to the solutions from decades passed, ignoring the new realities of the 21st Century economy,” Kramer said.

The idea of saving money by sharing services has bipartisan support, and it is taking hold across the state as libraries, school districts and counties team up for everything from office-equipment purchasing pools to broadband networks. Pawlenty and DFLers alike have worked to help lead and facilitate that movement.

A tough equation to crack
If only your property taxes could shrink through such important management innovations, you would have clear-cut demands to bring to candidates for local and state offices this year. 

If only.

The property-tax equation is far more complicated than that one factor. Another weighty factor comes from changes the Legislature enacted in 2001, shifting a good share of general education funding to the state. The short-term impact was a drop in local property taxes.

Over the long-term, though, the state has not delivered the aid to school districts that was anticipated back in the years when state coffers were fat. Since 2002, the state aid fell by $1,366 per pupil (in constant FY 2011 dollars) while school property taxes increased by $1,012 per pupil, said the Minnesota 2020 report.

Options and influence
Despite the complexities, voters/taxpayers do have options and considerable influence over property taxes. A study by the Minnesota Taxpayers Association [PDF] makes some useful points:

• Your property tax could be lower if you pay more local fees, or other local taxes, or if you are willing to pay higher state income or sales taxes so that the state could afford to pay more state aid and reduce local reliance on the property tax. This is what the state did beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s — using proceeds from increased sales and income taxes to “buy down” property taxes.

Residential property, homestead and rental after property tax refund
Source: Minnesota Dept. of Revenue Tax Incidence Study
Residential property, homestead and rental after property tax refund

• Too many of us let public officials, our neighbors, or others worry about the details and decisions that ultimately determine our tax bills. But don’t assume that your interests are being represented. Learn how the property tax system works and get involved in the local budgeting and tax process.

• Thanks to property tax reforms earlier this decade, nearly 100 percent of the local property tax bill on places of residence is now either under your direct control through voter-approved levies, or indirectly through your local elected officials. You can control your property tax bill, and now, you have more incentive to be involved.

• In November, your local governments will mail a “Truth-in-Taxation” notice to you, describing the impacts their budgets may have on your future property taxes. Don’t wait for that notice to get involved. Start earlier in the year by contacting local governments and finding out how to participate in the budget process.

Personal and gritty
That is helpful advice as far as it goes. But many of the factors making up the property tax still involve judgment calls based on individual values and political perspectives.

I’m all for pressuring my local officials to work more efficiently, but I’ll fight any further cuts in actual services at my beloved libraries and parks. You insist that school athletic programs are sacred. Our neighbor wants nothing more than seeing cops on the beat and filling the potholes.

This tax defines the point where democracy gets personal and gritty.

Sharon Schmickle writes about national and foreign affairs and science. She can be reached at sschmickle [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/09/2010 - 11:45 am.

    Nicely done, Sharon.

    As a recent immigrant from Colorado, the differences in tax structure between the Centennial State and Minnesota are pretty striking.

    Overall, my impression is that Minnesota is, indeed, a “high-tax” state. My personal income tax is 3 times what it was in Colorado on the exact same retirement income. During my first 6 months here, my property tax was double what I paid in Colorado on similar property, but then the “Homestead” factor kicked in, and it’s now only about 50 percent higher. Colorado has nothing that approximates that “Homestead” factor in terms of property tax rates.

    On the other hand, part of the reason my income taxes are 3 times higher here is that Colorado grants a tax exemption on retirement-plan (not investment) income for those aged 55 and over. The first $20,000 of retirement income is tax-exempt for those who qualify. I was happy to take that exemption, but I did nothing to earn it except live 55 years and have a fixed retirement income. If nothing else, it struck me as a testament to the lobbying power of a particular cohort of citizens.

    Sales taxes seem roughly equivalent. Seven-point-something overall in most cases, with that figure a combination of state and local levies.

    What kept me from going bankrupt, and allowed me to move here to be a real grandpa to a gorgeous 15-month old girl, is that I stumbled into a housing deal that was not only too good to pass up, but also an example of at least one major difference between the two states. I was able to buy a house in Minneapolis that had been foreclosed (it had been a rental unit, thus a bad investment for someone), purchased by the city as part of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, and rehabbed by a city agency as part of a work training program.

    The programs that made it possible for me to buy the house where I live in Minneapolis don’t exist in Colorado. Essentially, I live in subsidized housing, and the stigma attached to subsidized housing in Colorado is so great that it’s very rarely done except for those at the absolute bottom of the economic ladder (which has the effect, of course, of retaining and even increasing the stigma). The fact that virtually EVERY homeowner is living in subsidized housing is rarely mentioned, but that mortgage-interest tax deduction is a full-blown taxpayer subsidy from the government.

    Colorado artificially limits the property tax rate for homes via the Gallagher Amendment to its Constitution, which kept taxes low on my modest Colorado condo, but also has the effect of encouraging the well-to-do to build McMansions, since tax rates are held down on big houses by the amendment. State and local government, because of Colorado’s “TABOR” Amendment, cannot raise taxes to meet needs without a vote of the public. In the current economic and political environment, the result is a clash between the belief that there IS a free lunch, after all, and the equally strong belief that services have to be paid for.

    I’d love to see graphics similar to what you provided that compare both states, especially because they’re very similar in physical size, population, income, education, etc. One of the (so far) encouraging things about moving to Minnesota is that revenues (again, so far) rely pretty obviously on a fairly sturdy 3-legged stool, supported by sales, property and income taxes. Perhaps they’re not in equal proportions, but the contribution of each is substantial. In Colorado, because income and property tax rates are much, much lower, the state’s income (and thus the income of most counties and municipalities) relies much more heavily on sales tax.

    Among the several negative effects of that reliance is that control of state and local government revenue levels is effectively out of the hands of the people who have to somehow keep streets repaired, water flowing, etc. When the economy is up, income goes up, revenues go up, and government has money with which to provide services. When the economy goes down – something over which Coloradans have no control – income and revenues decline, often precipitously, and providing services becomes something beyond “challenging.”

    Democracy does, indeed, get personal and gritty when the public continues to demand the same services when revenue has declined by double-digit percentages, and when there is no readily-available remedy to ease the blow because of constitutional restrictions.

  2. Submitted by dan buechler on 09/09/2010 - 07:01 pm.

    Sharon, good policy article and I don’t know why more people haven’t commented, maybe its the political season and you gotta have a candidate involved.
    Ray, could you please comment sometime on out of staters from Texas and their influence in Colorado?

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/09/2010 - 07:30 pm.

    Considering that a recent study showed that with an income of $85,000 the average healthy person can live a happy life (presumably with adjustments for larger families, local cost of living issues, etc),

    and strongly implies that those making more that $85,000 although still happy, somehow feel unsatisfied with their level of income, implying that their dissatisfaction is not based on real needs, but on psychological factors,…

    I’d suggest that we make counseling available to those who feel that $85,000 is not enough and tax sufficiently those making far more than that as to assist their counselors in helping them to find greater satisfaction with less money (something which they seem always to be harping that the rest of us and especially government entities should be doing, while steadfastly failing to follow their own advice).

  4. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 09/09/2010 - 08:01 pm.

    This was a very good article. I live in a semi-rural, relatively low property tax Metro community. I’d be interested in comparing how taxes compare to some of the nearby recently developed cities and some older cities. We don’t have a police department in my town and we have a volunteer fire department. The town purchases some of these services from the county but we don’t have the overhead of those cities I see having fairly substantial police forces, public works departments and fire departments. Plus, many of the cities have built up commercial development through tax-increment finance gimmicks of one sort or other, which have assumed a growing economy and rising property values and rents. Isn’t the rising property tax burden a function of the highly leveraged on real estate bubble which finally burst in 2008?

  5. Submitted by John Olson on 09/09/2010 - 08:21 pm.

    One important point that is often overlooked in the equation is the change in market value of the property itself. Sure, tax rates can go up, but if the taxable value of a property declines, the net tax dollars collected may be neutral or even less. Levies and other things like that obviously impact this as well.

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/09/2010 - 09:49 pm.

    There’s no big mystery here. It may be complex but at the end of the day it’s simple arithmetic. Let’s say you live in a state with 4 million people, and a city with 50,000, and you’re city is getting a million a year in local government aid. If that aid is being drawn from statewide income tax, it’s costing you 25 cents. ( 1 million divided by 4 million = .25) If you eliminate that state aid and have to raise it locally, in your city, it’s going to cost you $20. ( 1 million divided by 50,000 = 20 ) So your 25 cent income tax cut cost you $20. This is how your $400 tax cut ended up costing you $2,000. We’ve been seeing this since Reagan started cutting taxes in the 80s. He cut federal taxes and the costs shifted down to states and counties. Pawlenty just did the same thing on state level. The real numbers aren’t this clean but the math is the math.

    I’m sorry but if you didn’t see this coming it’s because you weren’t paying attention.

    The Chamber of Commerce can complain about efficiency if they want, but anyone who tells you they thought they could cut hundreds of millions of dollars in LGA without causing property tax hikes or cuts in services is either an idiot or a liar- it’s simple math.

    The real agenda has always been about dismantling government, the tax cuts in exchange for efficiency were always a bait-n-switch. The next time someone offers you free tax cuts you best ask for details before you sing off on voodoo economics.

    I’ve written a basic but lengthy explanation of tax revenues. You can read it on my blog if you’d like. Scroll down.

    http://pudstrand.fatcow.com/blog/

  7. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/09/2010 - 10:52 pm.

    Ray’s point about the mortgage interest deduction (subsidy) is part of a larger problem regarding home ownership. This problem exists because both homebuyers and the government decided that a house was an investment vehicle rather than a place to live.

    In recent decades, the pace has picked up in terms of inventing ever more clever ways for every more people to pay too much money for a house. By making the government the de-facto lender or co-signer, the real estate industry externalized risk and internalized rewards. There are two ways to make houses affordable — low interest rates and low purchase prices. Either one works equally well for the buyer, who cares only about his or her monthly payment. However, the profits of builders, real estate agents, and title companies are all based on the selling price, so it’s been in their interest to keep price high, but interest rates down. We’ve also provided various tax breaks for home ownership that also enable the purchase price to be higher.

    I doubt that we’ll ever be able to do away with all the home buying subsidies that are so popular with both individuals and industry lobbyists, but prices eventually got to the point where even at near-zero interest rates, the houses were unaffordable. Even now, when I read about how the average home price in a nearby city has “plummeted” to only $400,000, it’s clear that we still have a long way to go down.

    Lenders are trying desperately to delay foreclosing, or at least to delay selling foreclosed houses, for as long as possible in order to not have to convert paper losses to realized losses on their books. Sellers are not able to come down in price because they already owe more than their house is worth. In my small town, all the houses that were for sale a year ago are still for sale. The necessary market corrections are not happening because sellers (banks or individuals) are not willing to admit that houses aren’t worth what they wish they were worth. Some are hoping to wait out the downturn. Some are hoping for a more generous government program. Meanwhile, nothing is selling, and the reason nothing is selling is that houses are still being priced as if they were investments rather than places to live. For the housing market to be rational, an average person working at an average job has to be able to afford to make the payments on a straightforward (no option ARMs) mortgage. When an average house costs $400,000 in the big city or $200,000 in a rural town, that’s just not possible.

    That “second dip in the housing market” is nothing to be afraid of. It’s the honest necessary realignment of supply and demand and the necessary honest recounting of bank balance sheets. Imagine what a mess we’d be in if the government had tried to prop up the dot-com bubble instead of letting it pop. Rather than trying all kinds of hocus-pocus to prevent house prices from dropping to the point where people can honestly afford to buy houses, we need to man up, deal with it, and move on.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/10/2010 - 08:48 am.

    Regarding the housing crises, we’re left with the legacy of putting the guys who engineered the system that collapsed in charge of saving the system. Not surprisingly they bailed out the banks instead of the taxpayers and public.

    We should have followed the Swiss model of temporary nationalization instead of the Japanese model of bank rescue. We could have nationalized the banks temporarily, taken the bad, foreclosed, and distressed properties for 25 cents on the dollar. The government could then re-negotiated mortgages or sell the foreclosed properties for 30% – 40% of their previous values. This would have forestalled a majority of foreclosures, created affordable housing, and put money in the Fed’s bank account. We could be sitting on an appropriately devalued but stable and healthy housing market right now. Instead we tried to re-inflate the bubble.

    The rationale for saving the banks was saving the investors, well look at your 401K, that didn’t happen anyways. Instead bank executives collected huge bonuses for steering banks through stormy waters on the taxpayers backs.

    Richard is absolutely right, affordable housing isn’t bad for the economy. We heard repeatedly during the bubble burst that the US economy was driven by construction and housing prices. This was an artificial model, a myth. All economies are driven by commerce, and housing was never the only form of commerce in the US. Likewise, the financial sector is only a segment of the economy, not the entire economy.

    Getting back to taxes, voodoo economics never delivered on it’s promises because there’s not such thing as magic. I always thought it was kinda funny that a bunch of Christians were promoting a mortal sin (greed) and a Satanic practice (magic or voodoo) as an economic model, but there you have it.

    Economist have long since calculated that targeted tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals are the most inefficient forms of stimulus. Bush’s tax didn’t even come close to mitigating the recession, remember the big rebate that was supposed to jump start the economy? The only thing about government spending is you have to decide how to pay for it. You can either pay for it outright with tax revenues, or deficit spend. Our deficit is becoming a serious problem so it’s time to finance our spending with tax revenues. The only people who’ve seen an effective cut in their taxes have been the wealthy, so I’ll give you three guesses who’s where we should go for tax revenue.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/10/2010 - 09:12 am.

    Ms. Shimickle appears to be confusing two different budget areas- the effective tax rate and the property rate are not the same measures. I can’t find any 2006 figures in tax incidence studies, and I don’t know where the range of 1.3 – 4.2 comes from, it appears to be a property tax range, not an effective tax range. The effective tax range in 2004 was 10.9% for the wealthy and 18.9% for the bottom decile. (Table 1-6, pp 16, 2007 tax incidence studdy. http://taxes.state.mn.us/legal_policy/Documents/other_supporting_content_07_incidence_report_links.pdf

    The actual rate in 2009 was 9% for the top, and 22% for the bottom.

  10. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/10/2010 - 09:35 am.

    Thanks for this article. I do wish to question the statement that landlords pick up part of the property tax bill, however.

    As I’ve understood in the past, the renter paid the entire real estate tax bill (at the business rate rather than the homestead rate) for the property in which s/he lived. Does the landlord perhaps pay for the portion of the tax that covers common areas (hallways, laundry rooms, parking lots, etc.) and the renter only for one unit?

    Pawlenty’s cuts to the property tax refund for low-income renters was another blow for Minnesotans who work at low- to medium-wage jobs.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/10/2010 - 10:39 am.

    //As I’ve understood in the past, the renter paid the entire real estate tax bill (at the business rate rather than the homestead rate) for the property in which s/he lived.

    Yes Bernice, I had this argument with my Representative Jim Rhodes years ago. He was a Republican, and a decent guy all and all but he kept insisting that the property tax cut was going to lower rents. I bet him five bucks that my mother n laws rent would go up just as much if not more after the tax cut than it had in previous years. He paid up on a rainy afternoon at a local Caribou Coffee. Not only did you her rent go up, it went more than it had the previous year. Obviously the landlords didn’t pass their tax savings on to the tenets.

  12. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/10/2010 - 10:01 pm.

    I, too, am surprised there’s not a bigger flurry of commentary on this piece, since it strikes most of us right in the wallet, where it gets attention whether we want it to or not.

    The subsidized house I bought in Minneapolis was “under water” the instant I signed the papers, and one of the reasons why my property tax reverted (with the Homstead clause invoked) to “only” 50 percent higher than my property tax had been in Colorado is the the assessed value of the Minneapolis property dropped 16 percent from the previous assessment from the time I signed the papers until I got my new tax assessment this past January. The only thing that kept it from falling by 25 percent or more is the fact that it’s been thoroughly rehabbed.

    No matter, it’s going to be quite a while before I have any real “equity” in the place, and because I’ve NEVER bought housing as an investment, but always as a place to live where I could work as I pleased, whether it was teaching history or doing art, without having to pacify a landlord, making a profit from improvements to the property “investment” has never been a priority of mine.

    Since I’ll be living here until my granddaughter is an adult or I die, whichever comes first, I’m not especially concerned about being “under water.” I can make the mortgage payments without undue stress, and have no plans to move. My lender is apparently not terribly concerned, either, largely because I’ve made it plain that I’m here for the long haul, as it were.

    Unless special considerations are built into the legislation, most taxes are regressive to some degree, at least in terms of percentage of income, simply because the wealthy have so much more to work with in the way of resources. I’m not surprised that the property tax burden on the lower cohorts is higher in terms of percentage of income than it is on the top group for that reason.

    Paul may know where to find this information, but I’ve not seen any studies for those of us who are not economists or Grover Norquist acolytes that support the repetitive article of faith among Republicans that lower taxes equates to more jobs, and further, that more of those jobs are “good” jobs that presumably pay much more than a subsistence wage. What I HAVE seen from the CBO and GAO seems to indicate either no effect at all, or the opposite of what tax reduction zealots frequently claim.

    Having worked for private entities, big and small, as well as a taxpayer-supported school district, I can’t take claims regarding the greater inherent taxpayer-dollar efficiency of private entities seriously. I saw just as much waste, laziness, policy mistakes, foolish allocation of resources and plain ol’ venality in the private sector – more, actually – than I did in the public sector.

    In any case, as others have noted, the bigger picture here is a decades-long alteration of tax policies, partly pandering to various interest groups, partly based on philosophy, that has shifted the burden of funding services at all levels of government to the lowest possible denominator, if you will. The federal government now contracts out substantial work that used to be done by federal employees, and tax cuts at the federal level leave less money to be allocated to states. The same thing has happened at the state level, and the burden for services that used to be performed by state government increasingly falls on counties and cities. Eventually, the shifting of the burden cannot go any lower in the hierarchy than the individual taxpayer, and that’s a big part of why property taxes can often be a political hot potato, and understandably so.

  13. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 09/10/2010 - 10:03 pm.

    Paul U: I understand your point and I agree with it. What people don’t get is that property taxes in Minnesota are a function of State law and that the State legislature and Governor are determining the course of the State’s future as if it were a separately functioning entity, i.e. as if it were Sweden or Norway. In other words, the State budgeting is done assuming payment of property tax revenues and as if each local taxing unit were a subsidiary of the State. I don’t think people think it works that way.

  14. Submitted by dan buechler on 09/11/2010 - 08:54 am.

    #12 it has gotten comments they were just few at the beginning. Hey check out St. Anthony Main Theater next weekend they are showing a Norwegian film next weekend (very minnesotan ya know).

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/11/2010 - 10:57 am.

    I hope there are more readers than commenters for this series. I must say however, widespread ignorance and apathy has been one reason that voodoo economics has been so successful in the first place. A significant percentage of the electorate both liberal and conservative either don’t understand or are not interested in the basic nut and bolts of democracy. As a general rule people don’t know what their government does or how it does it. Small government arguments can only flourish in an environment of general ignorance and disinterest. The tax thing really is simple math. If you think about it for two seconds you can predict property tax hikes will follow income tax cuts, if the cuts are big enough to actually lower revenues. Two more seconds of thought will reveal that revenue cuts will demand service cuts unless one assumes massive inefficiency. Once you get past the first four seconds of thought you begin to suspect maybe you should have asked if anyone actually knows how inefficient the government really is BEFORE you signed off on revenue cuts in the first place. Tooooooo many people simply have not been thinking for the past 30-40 years. That’s why I refer to this era between 1970 and the present as “The Great Stupid”.

    Two of our three gubernatorial candidates now claim they’ll erase a 6 billion dollar deficit primarily with efficiency. That means Emmer needs to point to 6 billion dollars worth of inefficiency and Horner needs to point to 3 billion dollars. Neither one of them is even trying because they both know they’re going to cut not reorganize and efficiency their way out of the deficit. The only real question is after 30 years of this crap, have the voters finally figured this out?

    It’s the only question that really matters- when Emmer says he’s not going to cut services or raise taxes, you have to ask him to show us exactly where the 6 billion in inefficiencies are and it’s got to ad up to 6 billion dollars. When Horner says he’ll split the difference he got to show us where the 3 billion are. If they can’t show us exactly where these savings are, they’re asking us make a leap of faith. Previous leaps like this have left us falling without a parachute so we need to be asking them what they’ll cut if they can’t find the savings. It’s the only question that matters, but is it the only question voters are asking?

    There has been this widespread belief on both the left and the right that government is irrelevant, all that matters is your attitude, (preferably a positive attitude) and your resume’. In 2007 I spent a year arguing with liberals about whether or not we were in a recession and how bad it was and was going to get. Their primary complaint was that I was being a pessimist and demanding a public policy solution.

    Now that the reality of the great recession has become undeniable for everyone accept guys like Pawlenty and Emmer, who don’t really care about the economy in the first place, maybe people are beginning to think about the basics. Let’s hope so.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/11/2010 - 11:22 am.

    In a previous comment I pointed out that economists have long since demonstrated that tax cuts are the least effective form of government stimulus. The New York Times actually has a story about this:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/business/economy/11tax.html?src=busln

    This isn’t the first time anyone’s looked at this, I’ve seen the same results for decades. This is a basic fact of economic that for some reason never gets discussed when someone claims their tax cuts are good for the economy. Obviously this doesn’t bode well for Emmer’s plan.

  17. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/11/2010 - 02:07 pm.

    Regarding “tax policies”

    Too bad we can’t tax stupid….

  18. Submitted by Randy Carlson on 09/16/2010 - 11:25 am.

    I found this very interesting and I thank my friend who forwarded it to me. One question I have had since I moved to Minnesota is how do the property taxes I pay here compare to those in the Dakota’s, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebrask. I have not completed a internets search on this so the answer may be out there-if anyone can supple that I would like to go there and compare.If there is no site then that would be a great thing to organize. Thanks for letting me post.

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