Tag Archives: taxation

News Day: Waiting for the veto / “Independent” contractors / Playing to lose / more

Passed, passed, passed and waiting The legislature passed a number of bills yesterday, and the stack on T-Paw’s desk continues to grow. Will he sign or will he veto? Only the governor knows for sure. Among the bills awaiting decision:

Flat funding for P-12 schools and cuts for higher ed. Minnesota Miracle and expanded Q-Comp both lose out.

House and Senate leaders offered to plug about $2 billion of the budget gap with a school funding shift and use of budget reserves. That still leaves a billion dollar gap, which T-Paw wants to fill by borrowing and the House and Senate leadership want to fill with taxes.

The House and Senate passed a “lights-on” bill, which would keep the state running to July 2010, even if no budget agreement is reached by Monday.

The House and Senate passed the state bonding bill by wide and seemingly veto-proof margins, providing $300 million that would quickly create up to 3,000 construction jobs, provide flood relief to the Red River Valley and fund a new museum and rail projects in the St. Paul area.

Minnesota’s nuclear moratorium stands, as the Senate agreed to a compromise energy policy bill.

Freeze? What freeze? Though the governor declared a freeze on state hiring in February 2008, MPR reports that “The number of people on the state’s payroll has grown even though thousands of government employees have retired since Gov. Tim Pawlenty issued an executive order last year to implement hiring restrictions at state agencies.”

MN Job Watch One day after Park Nicollet announced that it will cut 240 jobs, the Hennepin County Medical Center said it will cut 100 jobs, and will require supervisors and administrators to take a two-day unpaid leave.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported an increase in initial unemployment claims last week: “In the week ending May 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 637,000, an increase of 32,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 605,000.” The total number of people receiving unemployment compensation remained at a record high.

A new twist on “independent contractors” comes in response to a state law that targeted abuses in the construction industry, reports the Strib.

The laws, which took effect Jan. 1, take aim at an old problem — contractors who illegally classify their employees as independent contractors to cut labor costs in the roofing, drywalling, remodeling and other building trades.

Such workers are shortchanged on Social Security, unemployment benefits and coverage for job injuries, and many don’t report all their income to state and federal tax collectors, a 2007 legislative audit said.

Now, often with employer encouragement, such workers are registering in record numbers as LLCs — Limited Liability Companies — with filings of new LLC registrations more than double the pace of a year ago. The situation is complicated by what workers and employers agree are onerous registration procedures for independent contractors that resulted from the new law, as well as by employers’ continuing reluctance tohire workers as employees, withhold their taxes and pay workers compensation premiums.

Playing to lose The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder reports that black athletes at the U of M are lagging significantly behind their white counterparts in graduation rates, and have not kept up with national improvements in black athletes’ graduation rates.

Unfortunately, at the University of Minnesota, the school’s top three revenue sports — football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball — are not doing as well in graduating their Black players. Their rates are 40 percent (football), 57 percent (women’s basketball), and 38 percent (men’s basketball), compared to Whites in football (73 percent), men’s basketball (50 percent) and women’s basketball (67 percent).

New power plant in Chisago county The Strib reports that a new, gas-fired power plant in Chisago County came one step closer to reality with tax breaks passed by the legislature. The plant still faces the PUC approval process.

The $300 million Sunrise River Energy station, an 855-megawatt natural gas-fired plant, would open by 2013 pending regulatory approvals, according to the company that would build it, LS Power, a private utility with offices in New Jersey and Missouri.

War Reports

Sri Lanka BBCA local doctor said that government forces shelled a hospital for a second day, killing 50 people, and government forces denied the report. Satellite images and UN sources seemed to confirm reports of shelling. Journalists cannot confirm or deny the reports, because the government does not allow journalists in the area.

DR Congo BBC Rwandan Hutu rebels killed more than a hundred people in the eastern DR Congo over the weekend. BBC notes: “Many of the rebels fled to DR Congo after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which some its leaders were accused of taking part.”

Pakistan BBC A school girl’s account of fleeing Swat:

… My sympathies are neither with the Taleban nor the army. Both have been cruel to us.

The Taleban have destroyed us and the army is murdering our people. …

National/World headlines

Burma BBC The Burmese government has taken ailing Nobel Laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from her home, where she has been under house arrest for 19 years, to prison. She is being charged with violating conditions of her house arrest after an American man, John Yettaw, was arrested after swimming across a lake to her house and staying there secretly for two days. Her lawyers say the man was not invited and BBC correspondent Jonathan Head says that, “it looks as though this is a pretext to keep her detained until elections due in 2010 which the generals think will give them some legitimacy.”

Haitians drown in attempt to reach U.S. NYT At least 10 of 27 would-be immigrants died when their boat capsized off the Florida coast.

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News Day: Closing the door to college / Five days, a billion dollars / No blood on the gun / more

I’m on the road, so this blog post is short and late — I hope tomorrow will be earlier and longer.

Closing the door to college Minnesota has had a proud tradition of higher education and of making higher education available to its residents. That may be ending, reports MinnPost:

Tuition is rising faster in Minnesota than in most other states. It has doubled since 1999 at the U of M. ..

Meanwhile, state spending for higher education has stuck flat for years in some areas and dropped by double digits in others. Now it is set to fall sharply as the governor and the Legislature wrestle through the current financial crisis.

Although job retraining is essential in times of high unemployment, and although enrollment at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) jumped by 14% in January 2009, Governor Pawlenty announced a $40 million cut in higher education funding this year, on top of the 28% drop from 2000 to 2007.
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News Day: Budget battle on the Hill / Midnight scam / Medical-Industrial complex / War report / more

Budget battle on the Hill DFLers are giving a “chilly reception” to what T-Paw claims is a “compromise” budget proposal, reports the PiPress. T-Paw wants to compromise by delaying more state aid payments to schools, cutting in half the amount he wants to borrow, and agreeing not to put money into the “rainy day” fund. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud: “He’s basically given an inch, when we’ve gone a mile.”

MPR provides a good overview. As the clock ticks on toward the May 18 adjournment, the legislature sent a health and human services bill to the governor, with no assurance of its fate. Republicans complained that a public safety omnibus bill passed by the Senate did not have enough money for prisons. The DFL planned to forge ahead with a $1 billion “placeholder” — passing appropriations bills, and waiting for some resolution of the difference between Pawlenty (raise money by borrowing) and DFL (raise money through taxes) positions. And then there’s the “lights on” bill.

Meanwhile, Democrats are also moving forward with a backup plan that would keep government services running in case a budget deal isn’t reached. The bill would fund government services at current levels through July first of 2010. DFL Sen. Larry Pogemiller said the bill is only “precautionary” in case Pawlenty vetoes the budget bills.

Midnight scam When the phone rings at midnight, watch out! That’s the message in the Minneapolis police department description of a new scam, which starts with a middle of the night phone call warning of a credit card irregularity and asking for your credit card number.

Fong Lee case: On to trial As attorneys talked settlement, crowds outside the federal building called for justice for Fong Lee, reports the TC Daily Planet. A Minneapaolis police officer shot the 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006, and claim that he pointed a gun at police officers, but the family claims the gun in question was planted after Fong Lee was killed. The settlement conference reached no agreement, so the case is set for trial next week. Meanwhile, reports David Hanner in the PiPress, the city of Minneapolis is seeking to bar comments from its own PR officer from the trial.

Tax and invest Hundreds of Minnesotans crammed the state capitol Monday to call on lawmakers to raise revenue to fund critical public services. The demonstrators chanted “override,” referring to the governor’s veto of the omnibus tax bill on Saturday, and called for using taxes to fund education and health care and “invest in Minnesota.” See reports in the the TC Daily Planet from Workday Minnesota and Session Daily.

The Medical-Industrial complex Paul Krugman is skeptical about health care industry promises to cut the rate of growth in health care spending, but, he says, it’s still “tremendously good news.”

The point is that there’s every reason to be cynical about these players’ motives. Remember that what the rest of us call health care costs, they call income. What’s presumably going on here is that key interest groups have realized that health care reform is going to happen no matter what they do, and that aligning themselves with the Party of No will just deny them a seat at the table.

For more detail and links to the official announcements, check out the Daily Kos report.

War Report

Afghanistan Washington Post General David McKiernan, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, was relieved of his duties by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who said he is looking for “fresh thinking” and “fresh eyes.” BBC: Suicide bombers struck two government buildings in the city of Khost in eastern Afghanistan, killing six people. According to AP,”Armed insurgents took government workers hostage and ambushed an American quick-reaction force, wounding one U.S. soldier.”

Iraq BBC Suicide bombers killed six police officers in Kirkuk. NYT: In Camp Liberty, the main U.S. base in Baghdad, a U.S. soldier killed five fellow soldiers.

SomaliaBBC As fighting escalated in the capital city of Mogadishu, at least 120 were reported killed and thousands were fleeing the city.

Pakistan BBC The Pakistani government claimed that it had used helicopters to drop troops into a Taliban stronghold in the sparsely populated Peochar valley in Swat. UN reports say about 360,000 people have fled since the government launched attacks on the Taliban forces in the Swat region. A telephone report described the city of Mingora as a ghost town, with people in hiding and rapidly running out of food and water. AP: The Afghan government says the total number of internal refugees in the country is now 1.3 million.

BBC A U.S. drone killed eight people in the northern district of Waziristan near the Afghan border.

Sri Lanka BBC Rebels and hospital officials say that government forces killed at least 45 people when they shelled a hospital inside the conflict zone. While reporters are banned from the area, the UN reported a weekend bloodbath that killed more than 400 people and injured more than 1,000.

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News Day: Fishing season and veto season open / Franken v. Coleman / Someting rotten / Aung San Suu Kyi ill / War news / more

GOOD NEWS And that’s worth going to the top of the report – Roxana Saberi is due to be freed and flown home today, after an Iranian court suspended the eight-year sentence previously imposed on the North Dakota journalist.

Fishing season and veto season From cocoa bean mulch canine health warnings to the billion dollar tax plan, T-Paw wielded the veto pen before heading off to the fishing opener Saturday morning. As the PiPress succinctly notes:

Pawlenty and the Legislature have eight days to balance the budget by the May 18 constitutional deadline. If they fail to get done on time, he could call them back into special session. And if they don’t finish by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the nonessential parts of state government will shut down.

According to Steve Perry in PIM, DFLers are “within dreaming distance of an override majority.” But definitely not there yet.

Franken v. Coleman With Franken’s reply brief due in the MN Supreme Court today, Minnesota moves one step closer to having a second senator. In MinnPost, Eric Black continues his series of analytic reports, this time focusing on Coleman’s Equal Protection argument.

Fong Lee case A settlement conference in the Fong Lee case is set for today, and supporters promise a demonstration on the courthouse steps. A Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Lee in 2006. The family has sued the police officer and the city, amid ongoing revelations of problems with police reports about gun identification and mishandling of squad car videos.

Something rotten in Minneapolis The Strib asks: “Did a Minneapolis police officer spin lies?” Well, that’s one possible conclusion – but the story describes another possible scenario in which the FBI and ATF use dubious information from a plea-bargaining drug dealer to target black Minneapolis cops — and the Minneapolis police officer in the headline (Lt. Michael Keefe) blows the whistle on them. The single officer finally charged as a result of the massive, months-long federal/state investigation goes on trial Monday, charged with taking $200 from gang member Taylor Trump in exchange for non-public information. Read the Strib’s investigative series about the Taylor Trump/FBI/ATF/Violent Crimes Task Force investigation at Part I: The Informant, Part II: Putting cops to the test, and Part III: Police versus the police.

Another bad budget cut Cutting funding for Personal Care Attendants hurts vulnerable children and adults — and will cost more money in the long run, explains Gail Rosenblum in the Strib. She talks to members of the “invisible work force,” including one woman who “has worked as a PCA for 12 years, earning an average of $10 an hour to help Minnesotans with a range of disabilities — from spinal cord injuries to fetal alcohol syndrome — in bathing, using the toilet, getting into a wheelchair, eating without choking, experiencing fresh air.”

Green and affordable On the West Side of St. Paul, reports MPR, NeDA has built a few low-cost green homes. Most green homes are bigger, glossier enterprises, but these have no “granite countertops and no bamboo floors,” instead focusing “on energy efficiency because energy bills are one of the biggest obstacles to lasting home ownership for low-income families.”

War reports

Chad BBC: More than 250 people have been killed in fighting between rebels and government forces in eastern Chad, near the border with Darfur. Chad’s government claimed victory and blamed Sudan for arming the rebels.

Afghanistan BBC: In Washington, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the U.S. to stop air strike in Afghanistan. Afghan officials said more than 100 civilians died in U.S. bombing in the western Farah province, while U.S. military said the number was not that high.

Somalia BBC: Radical Islamists fighting against government forces were blamed for an attack on a mosque in Mogadishu that killed 14 people. According to BBC, “At least 50 people are thought to have died in gun battles between the rival factions since Thursday, when clashes erupted in a northern area of the city.”

Pakistan Washington Post: More than 200,000 refugees are already in camps, with another 600,000 expected to arrive, as Pakistan steps up attacks on Taliban militants in the Swat valley. AP says the number of refugees is already over 360,000, on top of 500,000 earlier displaced persons. The military claims to have killed 700 Taliban fighters, but is restricting journalists’ access, so no outside reports are available.

Sri Lanka BBC: The UN is calling government actions “a bloodbath,” citing the killing of hundreds of civilians, including more than a hundred children, as government troops try to wipe out the Tamil Tiger rebels. The UN “estimates that about 50,000 civilians are trapped by the conflict in a three-km-sq strip of land.”

National/World headlines

Aung San Suu Kyi ill Burmese Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest since her party won elections in 1990, is reportedly very weak, suffering from low blood pressure and dehydration. In a bizarre series of incidents, an American swam across a lake and entered her compound last week, then was arrested as he swam back across the lake last Tuesday. About 20 police entered Ms. Suu Kyi’s compound on Thursday. Her doctor, Tin Myo Win, was also arrested Thursday. The latest period of house arrest is due to end this month, but may be extended. The military junta still rulilng Burma has not allowed the National League for Democracy (NLD) to take office.

BBC: Four candidates are registered to run in Iran’s June 12 presidential election: current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former Revolutionary Guards chief, Mohsen Rezai (both conservative), and the somewhat less conservative gormer PM Mir-Hossein Mousavi, backed by former President Mohammad Khatami, and former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubi.

NYT: In Afghanistan, 44 candidates have filed to run for president. Elections are scheduled for August 20. According to NPR, “even before the campaign officially kicks off, allegations of fraud and intimidation by incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his ticket are shaping the race.”

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News Day: Unemployment up to 8.9 percent / T-Paw starts the veto engine / World and national headlines

Unemployment up again The unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent in April, as the economy shed another 539,000 jobs. Looking for the bright side – that’s the smallest number of jobs cut since October. But it’s pretty hard to see much of a bright side in the highest unemployment rate in more than 25 years.

The Department of Labor also notes:

About 2.1 million persons (not seasonally adjusted) were marginally attached to the labor force in April, 675,000 more than a year earlier. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

and:

In April, the number of persons working part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged at 8.9 million; however, the number of such workers has risen by 3.7 million over the past 12 months.

And the Daily Kos takes on the concept of “natural” unemployment, in a readable and important analysis of employment/unemployment in “what has just became the longest running downturn since the Great Depression, [and] probable long-term effects of this crash.”
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News Day: Gangs in the ‘burbs? / Bedbugs to Borers / Peeling back The Onion / Raiding health care fund / more

Gangs in the ‘burbs? Right on cue, as criticism of the Gang Strike Force mounts and grumbles about withdrawing from the multi-jurisdictional mess are reported, comes a Strib article about the gang threat in the suburbs. Continue reading

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News Day: TX: “Take this country and shove it” / Cadotte is back / Carstarphen critics / No handshakes in church / Who’s buying now? / more

Take this country and shove it The San Antonio Current cheerfully reports on the latest political posturing out of Texas, including talk of secession, from current Gov. Rick Perry to Larry Kilgore, a Republican candidate for governor in 2010:

Kilgore argues that the military challenge can be easily sorted out. “After the people of Texas have the opportunity to vote for independence, and our congressmen go up there and work with Washington, we will have to negotiate who gets what ships, who gets what aircraft, who gets what bases, who gets what personnel,” he says. “For example, the United States is not going to want folks in their military who are diehard Texans. Texans aren’t going to want folks in their military who are diehard United States people.”

He has a point. We all know those “United States people” have shifty eyes and can’t be trusted.

Then there’s the proposal to split Texas into five states, each of which with its own two U.S. senators, which would immediately erase the Democratic majority in Congress. The San Antonio Current explains:
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News Day: Big stink at the MPCA / Lies, mistakes and spreadsheets in St. Paul / “New wave” foreclosures / more

NOT in News Day today News about swine flu, Arlen Specter, the neverending Franken/Coleman saga, or the first 100 days of Barack Obama’s presidency. (Except to note that the ever-in-the-press Michelle Bachmann archly observed that swine flu seems to occur only under Democratic presidents. Only one problem, Eric Black points out: the other recent swine flu scare started under the decidely non-Democratic Gerald Ford in 1976.

Big stink at the MPCA Neighbors repeatedly driven from their homes by the stench from the 1,500-cow Excel Dairy near Thief River Falls are seeking to close it down. State and federal health officials have declared the dairy a public health hazard. Neighbors want the dairy shut down, citing past bad behavior. (This is not a small bunch of tree-huggers — the Marshall County Board also is also on their side.)
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News Day: Swine flu / MN taxes / Naked hikers / more

Swine flu: Emergency? Epidemic? Pandemic? A new kind of flu — H1N1 –has fearmongers topping the headlines everywhere else, so we may as well follow suit. For actual information, check the CDC, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the University of Minnesota Center for Infections Disease Research and Policy. As the story progresses, these will be good links to keep on hand. And now for the facts: A new strain of flu, caused by a virus with genetic components from pigs, birds and humans, emerged in Mexico. This virus is different from previous swine flu because it can spread from human to human.

No one knows how many people in Mexico have the virus, but Mexico has reported more than a hundred deaths from this flu and hundreds of other people who are sick. The government has closed schools and daycare centers in Mexico City to try to stop the spread of the flu. Far smaller numbers of cases have been reported in at least five U.S. states (CA, TX, KS, NY, OH) and in Canada and Spain. (No cases in MN yet.)

Most people who get swine flu get better. That’s one reason that the extent of the outbreak is hard to track. Tracking the begins with a throat culture, and most people who have flu do not visit a doctor.
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News Day: Contract or furlough? / Crippling health care / Taking away the children / Comic relief, more

Contract or furloughs or both? State workers who are members of AFSCME and MAPE “won’t be required to take unpaid furloughs under a tentative two-year contract reached Wednesday with the state, according to the unions,” reports the Strib. That was the first read on the contract agreement, and seemed to be good news, since T-Paw had been threatening/demanding 48 unpaid furlough days over the next two years, which works out to a little more than five weeks per year.
But wait — T-Paw’s spokesperson, Brian McClung, jumped in to say the contract makes no guarantees and state government retains its “existing ability to furlough employees if necessary.”

Crippling health care in MN The PiPress details testimony by health care leaders that describes the crippling impact of T-Paw’s plan to remove as many as 93,000 Minnesotans from state-subsidized health programs. Twin Cities health care providers have cut more than 1,500 jobs since last fall, as uncompensated care in the sate rose to an estimated $601 million in 2008. Hospitals said the influx of uninsured patients would mean massive losses and would require cuts in services:
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