Tax blue jeans, give business a break Surprise! Pawlenty panel backs business tax cuts T-Paw’s 21st Century Tax Reform Commission recommended imposing a sales tax on clothing and services, and raising the cigarette tax by about a dollar per pack — all in order to pay for business tax breaks starting at $300 million the first year and rising to $900 million a year thereafter, reported AP. Hmmm – maybe people will have something to say about the panel and T-Paw at a series of town hall meetings across the state, starting Thursday.
A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money Or not — as the estimates of how much of the economic stimulus package will come to MN vary wildly from one report to the next. Four billion, and possibly more, Senator Amy Klobuchar told AP’s Martiga Lohn. $9.1 billion, said Kevin Diaz in the Strib, with the money saving or creating 66,000 MN jobs. Diaz’s colleague Patricia Lopez had estimated (one day earlier) “a cool $3 billion” for MN. Lopez quoted MN House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher as saying that “a lot of the details are not as crisp as we would like,” which seems like one of the more accurate statements about the MN stimulus funding.
Here are some of the early reports on the devilish details: Cynthia Boyd at MinnPost reports that Minnesota’s school stimulus funds are estimated at about $1.4 billion, including 815.7 million in state fiscal stabilizatin funding, $224.3 million in Pell grants, $187.5 million in added Special Education monies, $87 million in Title I tutoring for poor kids, $27.2 million in school improvement grants, $20.6 million for Head Start, and $25.2 million for Child Care and Development block grants.
MinnPost’s DC reporter, Cynthia Dizikes weighed in with more numbers — $134,695,876 in weatherization funding, $668,242,481 in infrastructure investment, $502,284,177 for roads and bridges, $92,241,542 for mass transit, $1,851,573 specifically for the Hiawatha Corridor, $107,690,700 in loan funds for drinking- and waste-water treatment.
MN Job Watch Want a recession-proof job? Shoe repair is good, according to the Strib, and so is the pawn shop business, auto repair, and debt collectors. Their business is so good, that lawyers report an increase in business from people being hounded by collectors. Bankruptcy filings are also “huge” and “the repo business is booming.”
You might take that optimistic outlook with a grain of salt, however — MPR’s Tom Robertson reports reports that not even funeral homes are recession-proof.
A growing number of families are choosing less expensive caskets for their loved ones. They’re cutting back on flowers and shortening the length of visitation services, all as a way to save money.
There’s also a rise in the number of families who cannot pay funeral costs at all, especially in regions with high unemployment. That means burial costs are increasingly falling on local or state governments.
Another Strib article by Kara McGuire points to a grim picture for workers whose retirement accounts fell, on average, by 27 percent last year. Many workers now see their employers eliminating 401(k) matches.
Around the world in 90 seconds Even as peace talks supposedly near an agreement, BBC reports that Israeli jets bombed tunnels on the Egyptian border after two rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel.
While the U.S. is at war in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan, BBC reports that U.S missile strikes killed ten people in northwest Pakistan (Sunday?), after a Saturday missile attack destroyed a house near the Afghan border, killing 28 militants. Meanwhile, the Pakistan government signed a peace deal with a Taliban group in the Swat valley, agreeing to enforcement of Islamic Sharia law in the Taliban-controlled region.
In Zimbabwe, new opposition Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai showed sufficient strength to get his deputy agriculture minister released from jail after Roy Bennett was arrested on charges of treason. The charges against the white farmer who has opposed the government of President Robert Mugabe were reduced to “terrorism,” , reports the BBC, and Mr. Tsvangirai observed that Bennet’s arrest was undermining the spirit of the power-sharing agreement.
In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez won another referendum, this one to end term limits, allowing him to run for a third term in 2012, if he so chooses. International observers called the election free and fair.
Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed named a new prime minister, , reports BBC. New PM Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke is seen as a bridge between Islamists in the government and the international community. Insurgents have denounced the new government as anti-Islamist, despite the history that President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed came to prominence as one of the leaders of the Union of Islamic Courts.