MN economy’s “gruesome bookends” Steve Perry writes in MinnPost that Minnesota’s dwindling unemployment insurance fund and tax revenues tied increasingly to the business cycle offer two troubling “bookends” of evidence that the state’s fiscal troubles will continue far into the future. On the UI front, Minnesota has less than two months of reserves, with a year considered healthy, and is expected to join the ranks of states borrowing from the feds to pay unemployment benefits, and running up a debt that will further complicate future budgets.
On the tax side, Perry cites a complex analysis offered by state economist Tom Stinson in a PIM interview with Perry, which explains in greater depth what Perry summarizes for MinnPost as:
To make a long story short, and somewhat over-simple: Through-the-roof revenues from capital gains and bonus income during the bubble years both distorted and inflated state revenues, and led states to cut taxes and expand spending in unsustainable ways.
The PIM interview includes some Stinson recommendations about needed changes in the tax structure, including raising some taxes, changes in capital gains tax treatment, and much more. From a journalistic point of view, it’s somewhat amusing to see Perry in MinnPost referencing and simplifying Perry in PIM. I’m glad he did, as the PIM article is both important and tough reading. Its conclusion: Minnesota tax revenues will not return to pre-recession levels until 2014.
IRV is in The MN Supreme Court ruled that Instant Run-off Voting, aka Ranked Choice Voting, is legal and constitutional and Minneapolis can go ahead and use the choice already approved by voters a couple of years ago. Opponents say they will keep on suing, in other cities that adopt IRV, and probably also in challenges to results of elections using IRV. They don’t really care what the voters say, or what the Supreme Court says. Their lawsuits just increase the costs of IRV for every city that adopts it. The St. Paul City Council is expected to consider IRV now, having delayed consideration to see what the Supreme Court would say.
RCV is a tested, accepted and implementable system by which voters rank candidates in order of preference, ensuring majority winners in single-winner races where there are more than two candidates on the ballot. Under RCV, voters cast their vote for their favorite candidate knowing that if he or she doesn’t gather enough votes to be one of the top two finishers, their votes will count toward their second choice. Votes cast for the least popular candidate are not “wasted”, but rather redistributed to more popular candidates, based on the voters’ second choices, until one candidate emerges with a majority of votes. In multi-winner elections, like the Minneapolis Park Board RCV ensures majority rule while empowering small groups of voters with greater opportunity to elect a candidate that represents them.
Since, of course, the DFL dominates Minneapolis politics, this could let marginalized urban conservatives and independents efficiently consolidate their votes around more conservative candidates. On the other hand, it also frees those to the left of the DFL mainstream to vote for Greens and other lefties, and then safely set a second choice for a liberal DFLer.
You can’t get there from here Stretches of I-94 and I-35W in the heart of the metro area will be closed this weekend. The Strib summary: “All northbound lanes on 35W will be closed from Crosstown Hwy. 62 to 94; all of 35W’s southbound lanes will be closed from S. 60th Street to the crosstown (which will remain open). Westbound lanes of 94 will be closed between 35W and Hwy. 280; access from the Cretin-Vandalia exit in St. Paul will be blocked.”
Minneapolis Police Department layoffs No police officers get the ax, but 17 community service officers will be laid off, a consequence of less-than-expected federal stimulus funding, reports the Strib. In February, Mayor RT Rybak thought the city would get $5 million for police — the actual figure is now down to $3.73 million.
Worth-less The personal wealth of Americans dropped by $1.3 trillion in the first quarter of 2009, pushing back to 2004 levels, reports AP. The 2.6 percent decline, mostly in the value of homes and stocks, came on top of earlier losses during 2007-08. On the other hand, “Americans’ personal savings rate zoomed to 5.7 percent in April, the highest since 1995.”
Peru protests move to Lima About 20,000 marched on Congress, amid clouds of tear gas, reports BBC, protesting last week’s violence against indigenous people blocking roads in the Amazon region and protesting against oil and gas drilling.
Confrontations between police and indigenous protesters last week led to the deaths of more than 50 people.
Congress in Lima voted on Wednesday to suspend two controversial land decrees.
Aung San Suu Kyi BBC reports that the trial of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been continued to June 26. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for most of the past 19 years, but her house arrest was scheduled to end in May. Instead, a bizaare incident involving an American who swam a lake to enter her home uninvited led to the government charging Suu Kyi with violating the terms of her house arrest. According to BBC, “Observers believe that Burma’s military leaders will seize on the incident to keep her behind bars during what they say will be multi-party elections in 2010.”
Iran elections today Huge turnouts are reported in today’s presidential elections in Iran, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces a strong challenge from the more moderate former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, after an intense campaign in which the economy was a major issue. Two other candidates are also on the ballot. BBC notes that:
Iran is ruled under a system known as Velayat-e Faqih, or “Rule by the Supreme Jurist”, who is currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei….
But the constitution also stipulates that the people are the source of power and the country holds phased presidential and parliamentary elections every four years.
Pakistan A senior Islamic cleric was killed in Lahore, reports BBC. The suicide bomber attacked Sarfraz Naeemi at the Jaamia Naeemia madrassa around the time of Friday prayers. Naeemi had denounced the Taliban as “un-Islamic” and also denounced suicide bombing