Gov. Mark Dayton says he has "mostly decided" which local construction projects will get to share $47.5 million in bonding money from a special development fund.
Dayton said today that he plans to announce the winning projects on Thursday. The Department of Employment and Economic Development received 90 applications, representing $288 million in requests. Dayton repeated his criticism of the Legislature for omitting several local projects from last session's bonding bill, and instead creating the competitive development fund.
"Most of them are very important projects to the communities and to the regions, and it's just a shame that it's been set up this way," Dayton said. "It was a mistake to do so in hindsight, and I don't think we should do it again."
Dayton said the local projects that aren't selected will still have a shot at future assistance. He said he plans to unveil another bonding bill proposal in January.
Minnesota voters are split on the marriage amendment, according to a new poll from the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling (PPP).
Roughly 48 percent of the 824 likely Minnesota voters surveyed say they support a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, while 47 percent oppose it - well within the poll's 3.4 percentage point margin of error.
"It looks like Minnesota's marriage amendment will go down to the wire," said Dean
Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "Voters in the state are very closely divided
in their attitudes about it."
According to PPP, public opinion has narrowed on the subject since June, when the firm found that 49 percent of Minnesota voters opposed the amendment compared to the 43 percent who supported it.
Other polls tell a different story. A survey released this week by KSTP/SurveyUSA shows that 50 percent of Minnesotans favor the amendment while 43 oppose it.
PPP also asked questions about an amendment to the state's constitution that would require voters to show identification on Election Day, and found that it's likely to pass. About 56 percent of Minnesotans favor the amendment while 39 percent do not. Republicans and independents overwhelmingly support the ballot initiative.
Meanwhile, KSTP/SuveryUSA's found 62 percent of Minnesotans support the ID amendment, while 31 percent oppose it.
Other poll highlights:
- Forty-eight percent of Minnesotans approve of the job Gov. Mark Dayton is doing while 37 percent do not. He leads a generic Republican opponent in 2014 by 13 percentage points.
- However, Democrats lead a generic state legislative ballot by only 3 percentage points, a much tighter margin that the 12 percentage point lead the party had in June.
- Sen. Al Franken, who is up for reelection in 2014, has a 49 percent approval rating and leads a generic Republican opponent by 6 percentage points. Franken would lead former Sen. Norm Coleman and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty by 7 percentage points in a head-to-head match-up, and would lead Rep. Michele Bachmann by 12 percentage points.(7 Comments)
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a liberal organization aiming to put more Democrats in the state Legislature this year, is keying in on a common local election theme: property taxes.
As part of its effort to paint state Republicans as out of touch with average Minnesotans, ABM has been broadcasting this factoid during its Homestead Heist tour, in their literature, and in a recent television ad.
"[Republicans] passed a law making 95 percent of Minnesota homeowners pay higher property taxes," the ABM ad states.
ABM doesn't have enough information to make such a claim.
ABM is referring to the Legislature's elimination of the Market Value Homestead Credit in 2011 as part of the budget deal that ended the government shutdown. Previously, local officials would use a formula to reduce taxes on homesteads, and the state would reimburse the locality for the revenue that was lost in the process.
In recent years, the reimbursement became unreliable because the Legislature regularly cut it.
So last year, the Legislature replaced the program with something called the Homestead Market Value Exclusion, a new approach that lowers the value of a home before tallying the taxes. The exclusion applies to homes valued at less than $413,800.
ABM says the elimination of the old credit made "95 percent of Minnesota homeowners pay higher property taxes." PoliGraph ran that statement by three of the state's leading authorities on property taxes - Steve Hinze with the Minnesota House Research Office, Jeff Van Wychen with Gov. Mark Dayton's office, and Eric Willette at the Minnesota Department of Revenue - and all three agreed in their assessment: ABM's claim only tells part of the story.
It's true that the old credit applied to 95 percent of Minnesota homeowners. But that doesn't take into account the effects of the new exclusion, which was meant to keep property taxes low for many of those same people.
Unfortunately, none of those tax authorities have looked at precisely what percentage of Minnesota homeowners are paying more in property taxes as a result of the credit's elimination, so it's impossible to peg a number to the situation. Hinze, Van Wychen and Willette agreed that it's probably not 95 percent, however.
That said, there are few things we know for certain about how the credit elimination affected property owners.
Because the state is no longer reimbursing localities for offering the credit and because the tax base is effectively lower due to the new exclusion, cities and towns need to make up for the lost revenue one way or another. In some cases, the new plan has "shifted" the tax burden to business and apartment properties.
But how the new program's effects have played out varies from place to place, said Hinze, who ran numerous simulations in 2011 to see how the new homestead exclusion could affect homeowners assuming cities and towns didn't change the amount of property tax revenue they needed.
For instance, in Aitkin County's Hill City, most residential homesteads saw their property taxes decline while commercial properties saw their taxes go up. Across the state in Freeborn County's Glenville City, residential homesteads saw their property taxes go up, as did owners of other types of property.
Indeed, property taxes overall have increased by $365 million since 2011, or about 4.5 percent. Residential homesteads saw a 1.8 percent increase in the last year while agricultural properties saw a 10.4 percent increase.
But it's important to note that those figures take into account all sorts of property taxes, some not under the Legislature's control, and the numbers aren't specific to the elimination of the homestead credit. The figures also include fluctuations in property values, also not a product of Legislative action.
Since 2011, the Department of Revenue estimates that nearly 69 percent of households saw an increase in their combined property taxes.
Two of PoliGraph's criteria could apply to this claim: inconclusive ratings are given to statements that lack enough data to be definitive, while misleading ratings are given to statements that leave out important context or are exaggerated.
It was a tough call, but ultimately we landed on misleading. Here's why:
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota tries to tie rising property taxes to a specific action taken by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Three leading experts say there's no data to support their claim, and that it is unlikely to be 95 percent.
Further, ABM leaves out the important point that property taxes are on the rise for reasons unrelated to Legislative action, not just the elimination of the homestead credit.
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, "Too Long," Sept. 10, 2012
Minnesota House Research, The Homestead Market Value Exclusion, accessed Sept. 13, 2012
Minnesota House Research, House Simulation Research Report: Property Tax, Aug. 14, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio, Legislators work to restore tax break for frustrated homeowners, by Tim Pugmire, September 14, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Local governments look to make up shortfall after elimination of homestead credit, by Tim Pugmire, Sept. 27, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Video: Property Tax Increase, by Molly Bloom and Curtis Gilbert, Oct. 25, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Cities worry about taxpayer wrath, by Jennifer Vogel, Sept. 15, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Property taxes are rising for most, early estimates show, by Dave Peters, Nov. 10, 2011
Minnesota House Research, House Research Simulation Report: Property Tax, Sept. 20, 2011
Interview, Steve Hinze, House Research Analyst, Sept. 10 & 12, 2012
Interview, Jeff Van Wychen, Gov. Mark Dayton's office, Sept. 11, 2012
Interview, Eric Willette, Minnesota Department of Revenue, Sept. 10, 2012(1 Comments)
Ken Tschumper, a DFL candidate running against Republican Rep. Greg Davids for the state House, is under the microscope at the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Doug Baker, who is chairman of the Fillmore County GOP, filed the complaint on Aug. 7 alleging that Tschumper, who represented the La Crescent area in the House between 2007 and 2008, paid for a radio campaign ad with corporate dollars but included a disclaimer on the ad that they were paid for by the Tschumper campaign.
Baker contends that both actions represent a violation of campaign finance law.
The complaint includes a photocopy of a check made out to KFIL FM from Precision Plus, Inc., for $224. It's a firm owned by Dennis DeKeyrel, who is chairman of the Fillmore County DFL and Tschumper's campaign manager.
DeKeyrel described how it is that Precision Plus ended up paying for the radio spot:
On Aug. 1, DeKeyrel went to KFIL to extend a radio ad run and record some new spots in his role as Tschumper's campaign manager. The radio station needed to be paid immediately, and DeKeyrel only had his business checks on hand.
So, he cut a check from his business account to pay for the spots. On Aug. 9, DeKeyrel deposited a reimbursement from the Tschumper campaign for $224. The check from KFIL didn't clear his business account until Aug. 21, DeKeyrel said.
"I didn't think about it at the time," DeKeyrel said.
Baker declined to comment on the complaint.
The Office of Administrative Hearings can take a number of actions, ranging from dismissing the matter to issuing a civil penalty up to $5,000. The office can also refer the complaint to a county attorney for criminal proceedings.
Governor Mark Dayton says he'll continue to push his plan to raise taxes on Minnesota's top earners in his next budget plan.
Dayton told a group at the University of Minnesota today that his administration is coming up with a plan to overhaul the entire tax code to make the tax system fairer to lower and middle income people. He didn't offer specifics but said his plan would continue to include an income tax hike on the state's top 2 percent of earners.
Dayton also criticized Republicans in the Legislature and in Congress for being reluctant to raise taxes to pay for new programs.
"This unwillingness to pay taxes and seeing it as a threat to our freedom and our liberty and our way of life, to me, is going to be the death of this country if it's not corrected," Dayton said.
Dayton said he didn't want to release his tax plan now because he didn't want it to get "mired in politics" during the campaign season. When pressed for specifics, Dayton said voters have a clear choice between his policies and the plans put forward by GOP legislative leaders.
"What people need to know and can vote on is that I'm committed to raising taxes on the wealthiest two percent of Minnesotans to make our tax system less regressive and the Republicans oppose that," Dayton said. "That to me is the acid test."
Republicans have criticized Dayton's call to raise taxes because they say it would make business owners less willing to invest in Minnesota.
Dayton said several other things during the wide ranging speech and interview.
He said he supports opening up trade with Cuba.
He's open to lowering the state's corporate tax rate but may close other unspecified loopholes.
He said he won't present a state based health exchange to the federal government until after the election. He also said it's an open question as to whether he can create the health exchange without legislative input.
He'll spend the next few months going to key business leaders and asking them what they need to succeed.
Here's Dayton's full speech: Listen
Here's his q and a with the U of M's Larry Jacobs: Listen