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March 13, 2013     Sentinel Tribune
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March 13, 2013

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SENTINEL TRIBUNE VIEWPOINT Wednesday, March 13, 2013 Page 4 BETWEEN THE LINES By Tom Merchant - Sentinel Tribune -- Politics accidental success? The last four or five years the country has gone through more crises than one can imagine. From a banking collapse, mortgage disaster, high unemployment, fis- cal cliffs and sequesters. The country has run the full gamut. When you look back on things -- congress bailed out the banks, a couple of car companies and poured a ton of money into the country via the stimulus programs. It seems that congress has done basically nothing since those actions were taken, and it seems to be working to some extent. Despite all of that the American people have proven to be somewhat resilient in their actions and attitude. A lot of eco- nomic professionals are looking at the U.S. economy and are opti- mistic that things have gone far better than a lot of people had expected. Some economists are predicting unemployment might go below 7 percent for the first time in five years. Some would say that is not good enough, but if you look where we have been the past few years it sounds pretty good to me. Of course a big part of that unemployment number is coming from baby boomers that are retir- ing. Another thing is that there are approximately three million jobs going unfilled because there are not enough people with the right skills to fill them. A big part of that is because we are not training enough people with the right skills to fill them. At the state level things appear to be getting better which is making Govemor Dayton recon- sider his aggressive budget pro- posal which included business to business taxes. That is a regressive tax -- but with revised revenue forecasts Dayton is dropping most of those tax proposals. It will be interesting to see the new propos- al. I really think there is a need for more revenue, especially if you look at a lot of our roads in south- em Minnesota. Locally Highway 30 and Highway 62 are becoming very poor. We need to keep our roads in better repair, bad roads cost a lot in unnecessary car repairs. Good for car repair shops but not so good for consumers. It sounds like the tax on cloth- ing will be removed, but I hope it is not. We are losing tons of money there at Mall of America. A huge portion of business there comes from out of state visitors. A lot fly or drive in for a long weekend of shopping. They spend a lot of money for the experience -- I doubt that anyone who is willing to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for a power shopping weekend would even think about a few extra dollars in taxes. Minnesota is one of four states that exempt clothing tax. The clothing tax proposed would exclude any clothing under $100. I think under $50 would be better. Of course another area that needs a lot of attention is mini- mum wage. There is no evidence that raising minimum wage has any impact on unemployment or cause inflation, some politicians claim it will. It will help the lowest income earners, who will put most, if not all, of that money directly into the economy. I have my own ideas when it comes to minimum wages. I say raise it incrementally over the next three to five years. After that tie it into the rate of inflation much like is done with social security. That way hopefully we would not be facing this problem every ten or fifteen years. One more thought -- proper- ty taxes, while the budget in Minnesota was balanced by severe cuts and shifts, homeowners have suffered the brunt of these cuts and shifts through skyrocketing real estate taxes. To our legislators -- do something about it! Senior citizens need help. But if you do anything, means testing should be considered when crafting a bill -- people like Warren Buffet do not need property tax relief! If any of this makes sense to you contact your state representa- tives. Have a great week and do good! CLASSIFIED ADS - SMALL PRICE - BIG RESULTS AI Ba00. . . "Stories from the BaH Cave" Spring 2013 I've lost an hour. I'll bet it's in the junk drawer. Oscar Wilde wrote, "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." Oscar could have written that lat- ter phrase about winter. Some years, we forget to tell winter when it's done working. Even mild win- ters last long enough that winter seems as if it's the only place we've been. Winter will leave, grudgingly. Ain't no horse can't be rode; ain't no cowboy can't be throwed. We spring ahead for the next 34 weeks. Daylight-saving time doesn't save anything. It's like sit- ting down. What you lose in the front, you gain in the back. It's spring when my Slinky heads south for spring training, snowmen become soft-serve, and innerspring mattresses turn green. Spring is the time to take down the Christmas lights and to fire up the lawn mower that magically appeared through the melting snow. March marches through mud and snow until April arrives with an assurance from the IRS that we have what it takes. In May, we enjoy the company of insects whether we enjoy their company or not. A May bee is never certain. Spring is the best season--billions of mosquitoes can't be wrong. We are what eats us. Each spring, someone puts a "Tick me" sign on my back. Flies bump against the screens like a scene from "Desperate Houseflies." We dance around a Maypole at school on May 1. Then we tap the pole and enjoy Maypole syrup on pancakes. The words of Rachel Carson written in "Silent Spring," soothe us. "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth fred reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infi- nitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature--the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter." Yard couches bloom. Impatiens become impatient. If the slush and splash of seasons is a soggy one, enterprising farmers plant seaweed. Every year, somebody on TV stands an egg on its end and declares that such a feat is possible only during an equinox. It's possi- ble at any time of the year, but it's not possible with every egg. The TV personality should try standing a scrambled egg on its end. That would be challenging. One of my wife's relatives, who ekes out a liv- ing on the Professional Standing Eggs On Their Ends (The PSEOTE) circuit, claims that all it takes is steady hands. He says that it works best if the egg is shaken. This breaks the yolk loose from its suspension in the center of the egg, lowering the egg's center of gravity. I've found the easiest way to bal- ance an egg on its end is to make a tiny mound of salt on a hard, smooth surface and carefully bal- ance the egg on top of the salt. Going from winter to spring is like going from an 8-pack of cray- ons to a 164-pack of colors. The world is colorized as some old black-and-white movies are, only in a good way. Spring is the time when worms emerge from the earth, buds appear on trees, flowers bloom, frogs sing, thunderstorms thunder and storm, UPS drivers wear shorts, and the entire world chirps. Red-winged blackbirds, sandhill cranes, turkey vultures, and killdeer move in without a moving van. Chipmunks chip and munk. Squirrels and telemarketers search for oozing sap. The vernal, or spring, equinox signals the beginning of nature's renewal. Folklore says that three snows fol- low the first sighting of a robin. This applies to migratory robins, not those stubborn robins that kept us company all winter. The sound of a robin warbling "cheerily, cheer up, cheerily" settles the debate as to when is the first day of spring. Spring arrives on the wings of a bluebird. Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring. Spring is when a child loses a mitten and no one gets worked up about it. Spring is when you remember that the windows of your car can be opened. Spring is when you smell skunk spray through an open window. I check my weather rock each morning. If it's wet, it's raining. If it's white, it's snowing. And if the rock is gone, it's windy. When you see a pocket gopher mound, that means that the frost is out of the ground--at least in that location. Meteorological spring begins on March 1. The vernal equinox is on March 20. So when does spring really start? Right before the blizzard. AI Butt 2013 71622 325 St. 1-1, MN 56042 Sentinel Tribune available at: Hoyt Oit& Convenience, Bubai Grocery Store, Thrift White Drug, Maynard's Grocery ExpressWay Shady Drive Inn TO EI.rOR /.Reduce our ' .... legfsiatur e Last week one of our legis- lator submitted a bill to reduce our legislature. Our former Governor Jesse Ventura want- ed this done too, this is long overdue. We don't need 201 members; Texas has 181, California 120, why do we need this number. They have been wanting to  increase the size of the legislature cham- ber by spending 50-60 mil- lion bucks to accommodate them. Contact your legislator and push this through. Alan Cohrs Westbrook February Forecast Bolsters Need for Revenue By Jeff Van Wychen, Minnesota 2020 Fiscal Policy Director After the February budget fore- cast revealed the state's projected deficit for the next biennium dropped from $1.1 billion to $627 million, Gov. Dayton's harshest critics quickly used the news to bolster their argument against any new revenue. Certainly the small uptick in forecasted revenue was good news, but--if anything--the new forecast underscores rather than refutes the need for additional public revenue. A more critical examination of the forecast data demonstrates the need for struc- tural revenue change if Minnesotans want to ensure we have enough resources to invest in education and infrastructure for the 21st century. We also need to have a fairer balance of who pay for these investments. When adjusted for inflation and population growth, state general fund revenue in the biennium end- ing this June (FY 2012-13) will be over 10 percent less than it was a . .__...L.__. .E : ................. decade ago. In the next biennium (FY 2014-15), real per capita gen- eral fund current resources will be even less than they are now if no changes are made. Furthermore, the official state forecast largely ignores inflation's impact on state spending. Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB) anticipates a deficit of $1.5 billion in both the FY 2014-15 and FY 2016-17 bien- nia after taking inflation into account. Unfortunately, a $1 bllion plus deficit in each of the next two biennia does not cover the full magnitude of the state's need for revenue. Since FY 2003, the state has slashed expenditures for sev- eral critical public investments which--if not reversed--threat- ens Minnesota's long-term eco- nomic health and quality of life. For example, since FY 2003 real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) per pupil state aid to Minnesota school districts has fallen by double dig- its, contributing to burgeoning class sizes and perennially strained K-12 budgets. In fact, the state still owes schools about $800 mil- lion from budget shifts dating Sentinel Tribune Thomas Merchant Junette Merchant Joan Spielman (ISSN 8750-3905) Managing Editor Office & Production Ad Representative & Office Published every Wednesday at Westbrook, Minnesota 56183 Periodicals Postage Paid at Westbrook, Minnesota 56183 SUBSCRIPTION PRICE FOR THE SENTINEL TRIBUNE WILL BE: In the following counties: Cottonwood, Redwood, and Murray $42.00 per year. Elsewhere in Minnesota $46,00 per year. Out of the state $52.00 per year. Canada and foreign countries inquire at the Sentinel Tribune Office. If wrong amount is submitted subscrip- tion will be pro rated accordingly. back several biennia. Higher edu- cation fimding has also plummet- ed, leading to skyrocketing tuition and a reduction in the quality of the state college and university system. The list goes on: deterio- rating public infrastructure, the needs of elderly and Minnesotans with disabilities going unmet, soaring property taxes. Minnesota does not only need to resolve a budget deficit that will exceed a billion dollars in each of the next two biennia, but it also must address public expenditure needs that have been nnderfunded for a decade. Fortunately, Governor Dayton has put a plan on the table that generates the rev- enue necessary to balance the state budget in the next biennium while simultaneously addressing the need to restore critical public investments. Anti-tax legislators will no doubt claim that Minnesota can- not afford the tax increases pro- posed by the Governor. These naysayers need to be reminded that total state and local govern- ment revenue as a percent of state- wide personal income will decline iiRinr over the next four years under the Dayton budget relative to what it was in the previous four years, based on Price of Government information from non-partisan staff at MMB. Furthermore, the level of real per capita public rev- enue will still be considerably less than it was a decade ago even after the Dayton tax increase. Sadly, these dwindling reve- nues are disproportionately com- ing out of working-poor and mid- dle-income pockets. The latest Minnesota Tax Incidents Study, released March 1 st, shows the top one percent have a 9.6 percent effective tax rate for all state and local taxes, more than a full per- centage point below the statewide average. Meanwhile, those with incomes between $10,155 and $16,449 pay a 14 percent average effective tax rate, 46 percent more per dollar of income than the top one percent. Middle-income taxpayers also bear more than their fair share of Minnesota's state and local taxes. With an effective tax rate of roughly 12.2 percent, they pay 27 percent more than the top one per- "Snowbirds" may put their paper on hold at no extra charge while they are gone, or pay $5.00 extra to have it mailed out of state. Missed copies cannot be furnished because the cost of mailing single copies is about $2.00. Any request for a back copy must include $3.00. Newstand price is $1.00 per copy. Copyright 2012 Sentinel Tribune a New Century Press Newspaper Mail Change of Address Notice to: P. O. Box 98, Westbrook, MN 56183 CALL WESTBROOK OFFICE 507-274-6136 FAX 507-274-6137 TOLL-FREE 1-800-410-1859 News Desk E-mail Editor cent. It's a disparity that has got- ten worse over time. Despite overwhelming evi- dence that Minnesota's revenue system needs a major overhaul to bring fairness and stability to state funding, conservatives continue to stonewall reasonable tax increas- es. Their insistence that the improvement in revenue during the current biennium is the result of their "no new tax" policies is refuted by the fact that FY 2012 revenue in two-thirds of states is exceeding earlier projections, indicating this revenue uptick broadly reflects a national trend rather than an event unique to Minnesota. The February forecast does not disprove the need for a state reve- nue increase, but rather reinforces it. Tax increases of the magnitude proposed in the Governor's bud- get, combined with Dayton's rec- ommended reforms to state spend- ing, should become state law dur- ing the 2013 legislative session. 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