Both Minnesota Republican and Democratic leaders agree being in the black on a state budget is better than the alternative. Minnesota has had four years of budget surpluses, which followed five-and-a-half years of budget deficits.
“It’s good news,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa). “It makes it easier to balance the budget.”
…Minnesota’s economy has continued to grow slowly, adding jobs and economic output over the last several years. In 2015, its gross state product grew 1.9 percent — 0.6 percentage points slower than the U.S. as a whole.
In part because Minnesota has a tight labor market — only about one person to fill every available open job — the number of hours Minnesotans work and their wages have seen an increase.
When Minnesotans make more money, so does the state, as income tax is one of the biggest sources of state revenue. Income tax revenue projections for the 2018-19 biennium are $24 billion, up $274 million from November’s prediction.
I keep thinking of my neighbor Larry Spitzer, who asks why we would ever want to be like Minnesota. I think some Legislative appropriators could give a good answer to that question this weekend at the crackerbarrels.
But as I cruise around my neighborhood looking at older houses that could sue some love, it occurs to me that no supply-side effort will do as much to make quality, affordable housing as a solid demand-side effort—i.e., raising South Dakota’s wages so that more people can afford to build new houses and fix up the houses they are in. Consider how much the guys building houses make. The U.S. Department of Labor provides the following salary data for construction workers:
Our construction workers start out on par with the national average for entry-level construction laborer pay but fall behind as they work up the pay ladder. Our guys in the middle are 14% behind the national median. Our hardhats hit a ceiling that the top construction laborers bust right through elsewhere: South Dakota’s high-end construction salary is only 61% of what the best construction workers can earn nationwide.
Getting specific, construction workers in Minnesota make out much better:
Minnesota’s builders make 18% more at the low end, 45% more in the middle, and 90% more at the top than their counterparts in South Dakota.
After taxes, the median-wage Minnesota construction worker still has 34% more money left in his pocket than the median-wage South Dakota construction worker. Factor in cost of living, and the Minnesota builder can buy 20% more stuff than the South Dakota builder. Even the poor grunt hammering away in the extravagant and expensive Twin Cities would still get 15% more purchasing power from Minnesota’s median construction wage than his South Dakota counterpart. That’s thousands of dollars more that a Minnesota worker can spend on new shingles, windows, and paint, put toward a down payment, or throw into the salary calculation to escape a costly mortgage insurance requirement and keep more money in his pocket for maintaining his new house.
The South Dakota Housing Development Authority does good work. But they wouldn’t have to work as hard if South Dakota didn’t short everyone else who’s working hard.
South Dakota and Minnesota have increased their minimum wages over the last couple of years, but neither has taken the great leap of Seattle, which raised its minimum wage from $9.47 to $11 on April 1, 2015. Seattle companies employing 500 or more workers in the U.S. must reach $15 by January 1, 2017; smaller companies must reach that minimum wage by 2021.
As one of my colleagues wrote last week, the “unemployment rate in the city of Seattle – the tip of the spear when it comes to minimum wage experiments – has now hit a new cycle low of 3.4%.” Meanwhile, a University of Washington study on the minimum wage law found little or no evidence of job losses or business closings.
Yes, the man wearing this shirt at a Trump rally in Minnesota Sunday is deplorable:
Journalism is a vital First Amendment activity that has always protected us from domestic tyranny far more effectively than any Second Amendment activity. I will never suggest that practitioners of Second Amendment rights should be hanged; I deplore the suggestion that practitioners of the First Amendment should be lynched. But such are the anti-American sentiments inspired by the campaign of Donald J. Trump.
“Here in Minnesota, you can see firsthand with problems with … refugees,” Trump said, noting the large number of Somalis in the state. “You see the recent terrorist knife attack in St. Cloud? Hillary supports totally open borders.”
…DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin strongly objected to Trump’s criticism of the state’s East African community.
Trump will lose, not just because he is deplorable, but because Hillary Clinton knows far better than he how to run a political campaign:
Flexing its organizational superiority in Minnesota, the DFL Coordinated Campaign said it knocked on 40,000 doors in the state on behalf of Clinton during Trump’s 40-minute speech [Sherry, 2016.11.06].
We won’t out-argue deplorables like Trump. We will out-organize, outnumber, and out-vote them.
My xenophobe neighbors are bringing Usama Dakdok to town in a couple weeks to preach his fearful, angry nonsense about all Muslims being terrorists. He has subjected Brainerd and Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, to his hyperventilations over the past couple weeks, and some Minnesotans have shown us how we ought to respond to such vileness.
Board President Dace Julifs said Friday that Usama Dakdok’s presentation didn’t reflect any of the congregation’s views and Wooden did not adequately inform the leadership ahead of time about what would take place Thursday. The board members authorized Julifs to ask for Wooden’s resignation.
Two Muslim Americans, Dr. Fauzia Haider and Concordia College professor Ahmed Kamel, were guest presenters at the event.
During a question-and-answer session that followed, Dakdok stood and thanked them for coming before stating they are not theologians, adding, “which obviously, to me, means you do not know what you are talking about.
“The doctor (Haider) said that we worship the same god,” Dakdok said. “Allah is not god… your Quran does not teach that Allah has a son, therefore Allah cannot be God.”
It was the beginning of an increasingly contentious exchange.
“Do you know the Quran better than me?” Haider retorted at one point. “Who is the Muslim, you or me?”
Dr. Haider, a Fargo physician, put this crimp in Dakdok’s Muslims-hate-America narrative:
“When my mom first came to America, she made a statement that was very interesting,” Haider said. “She said, ‘Americans are really good Muslims’… because they do what Muslims are supposed to do: They’re honest in their dealings, they don’t cheat, they don’t lie, they take care of their neighbors, there’s accountability, there’s justice — and Islam is all about having a just society. That’s what her perception was of America, and she’s a practicing Muslim” [Gerdes, 2016.10.05].
Detroit Lakes resident Paula Quam offered this extended response to Dakdok’s hate speech in this open letter after the event:
At the meeting, you tried to “educate” guest speaker Fauzia Haider on her own faith, as if you had the right to clarify what her religion should mean to her. We’re sure you would have been open to her breaking down the actual meaning of your own religious beliefs for you, but she didn’t do that. It’s almost like she thought you had the right as an American to believe in your God the way you wanted to. Huh strange. It’s weird when people break out their true American values like that [Paula Quam, “An Open Letter to the Fearmonger Who Crashed Our DL Event,” DL-Online, 2016.10.05].
Some fearful, angry people will attend Dakdok’s next Three-Hours Hates (two of them, October 18 and October 20) in Aberdeen. We can only hope their fear and anger will spread no further.
If South Dakota’s regulators and courts won’t save us from Big Oil, at least their pipelines-unter-alles attitude is helping keep Minnesota clean for our camping trips. Canadian oil shipper Enbridge has mostly scrapped its plan to build the $2.6-billion Sandpiper pipeline to ship Bakken oil across northern Minnesota to the port at Superior, Wisconsin:
…Sandpiper’s route would pass through the Mississippi River headwaters and lakes plied by American Indians to gather wild rice, sparking fears of damage from a spill. A 2014 study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency found that Sandpiper would cross 28 rivers, lakes and wetlands that can’t be reached by nearby roads.
“It put sensitive natural resources at risk in a corridor where no pipeline should be built,” said Kathryn Hoffman, legal director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, which represents Friends of the Headwaters, a Park Rapids-based group. “We are very pleased” with Enbridge’s decision, she said [Mike Hughlett, “Enbridge Energy Pipeline Pulling Plug on Sandpiper Pipeline,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2016.09.02].
Enbridge hasn’t completely abandoned the plan, but they say Sandpiper is no longer part of its five-year plan. With yesterday’s application withdrawal, Enbridge would have to start from scratch with a new application to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
Enbridge Inc. and Marathon Petroleum Corp. agreed to pay $2 billion for a minority stake in the Bakken Pipeline system, securing a way to transport crude from North Dakota to the eastern Gulf Coast sooner than planned.
Enbridge Energy Partners LP, a unit of Enbridge, and Marathon will acquire 49 percent of the holding company that owns 75 percent of the system from an affiliate of Energy Transfer Partners LP and Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, the companies said in statements on Tuesday. Enbridge will pay $1.5 billion for its 27.6 percent share of the network while Marathon will put up $500 million for its 9.2 percent [Rebecca Penty, “Enbridge, Marathon Agree to Buy $2 Billion Bakken Pipe Stake,” Bloomberg, updated 2016.08.03].
Minnesota, you’re welcome.
Related Reading: While Energy Transfer Partners has built support for Dakota Access by promising the pipeline will carry “100% Domestic produced crude” for “100% domestic consumption,” a portion of the oil it will carry for Enbridge and other companies will likely head overseas.
As we debate Initiated Measure 21, the real 36% rate cap on payday loans, we hear some concern that capping interest on short-term loans will only drive storefront lenders to harder-to-monitor Internet lending. But if Chuck Brennan and Rod Aycox run for the Web, Minnesota provides precedent that will help us hold them to our new rate cap.
“The company engaged in an elaborate scheme to collect payments far higher than allowed by state law,” Swanson said in announcing the settlement. CashCall must cancel all outstanding loans, pay back consumers and “undo any adverse reporting to the credit bureaus.”
…The settlement is among the largest involving the controversial payday credit industry in Minnesota. The state’s leverage was strengthened by a 2015 Minnesota Supreme Court decision that held that out-of-state lenders have to follow Minnesota’s law for online loans [Paul Walsh and Neal St. Anthony, “State Bars Internet Lender, Wins $11.7M Settlement over ‘Rent-a-Tribe’ Loans,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2016.08.18].
Minnesota and other states have set precedent for tackling predatory lenders who try to evade state laws through online lending. If we pass Initiated Measure 21 and Dollar Loan Center continues to ply South Dakotans with 574%-interest loans online, Attorney General Marty Jackley should be able to prosecute them for violating the 36% rate cap… assuming A.G. Jackley is willing to challenge his campaign financiers.
The Aberdeen American News reports that a flyer has popped up around town advertising a presentation by Ron Branstner on “The Facts Behind the Refugee Resettlement Program” Thursday, August 11, 7 p.m., at the Ramkota:
The event will be “an informational meeting pertaining to the refugee resettlement program that is currently taking place in South Dakota. Learn how it’s being funded and how it may affect the future of Aberdeen,” according to the flier.
All are welcomed to attend the program, “brought to you by Americans First, Task Force,” according to the flier [J.J. Perry, “Refugee Resettlement Meeting Thursday,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.08.07].
The Americans First, Task Force (the comma is in the original) has a Facebook page that does not identify who created it or who belongs to it. The AF,TF page does provide the Branstner flyer:
Fourteen people like the AF,TF page as of 07:00 CDT today. An event page for Branstner’s talk shows twelve people so far saying they will attend. That event page also shows this picture:
I get the feeling that the photo symbolizes the thrust of the talk: an empty shadow magnified to larger-than-life proportions, while the speaker is lost in projections of patriotism.
A key premise of the presentation was that in the 1980s the Blandin Foundation entered a secret agreement with “the Hormel Foundation” to import illegal, cheap labor to bust unions, and also identified 280 additional communities in Greater Minnesota that would equally benefit from this strategy. The McKnight Foundation was also identified as a collaborator (and “there are six of the McKnights, including one in Little Falls”), all taking orders from “the Bermuda Philanthropies” which in turn is a shill for the High Council of the United Nations, which is now under control of Islamic extremists [eyewitness account, in Sally Jo Sorensen, “Unpacking Ron Branstner’s Blandin Foundation Bashing & Fact Checking His Baxter Handouts,” Bluestem Prairie, 2016.01.06].
That local eyewitness goes on to say, “I attended Blandin Leadership Training many years ago and to target Blandin and I am sure he was referring to the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls (McKnight) is simply whacko conspiracy theory.”
Let’s hear some more audience reviews from a presentation Branstner made in Little Falls last summer, in which he claimed that outfits like Lutheran Social Services collude with Big Meat to secretly bring in slave labor and collapse local public services:
…Kathy Festler, noted Brantsner said the immigrants/refugees would probably not come to this area for the jobs. “It would be more for housing than anything,” she said.
“That’s probably again more speculation — I found his talk a bit hard to follow — he would generalize and jump into another subject,” Kathy said. “Basically to me it was how entwined it was with grant groups, corporations and government. He talked also about these Blandin Foundation and the McKnight Foundation. It wasn’t real clear, they’re grant-making companies, they produce grants for cities and individuals and businesses and so forth — they evidently are involved in funneling money for groups.”
During the meeting, a woman in the audience asked Branstner for data on border problems. Branstner said he only had his personal experience [David Little, “Immigration Forum Sparks Some Heated Discussion,” Willmar West Central Tribune, 2014.07.24].
Branstner also decried an eclectic list of other organizations, ideas and individuals, including Hillary Clinton, Democrats, socialism, the United Nations, Forum Communications, the Blandin Foundation, the American Red Cross, the popular vote and democracy as opposed to republicanism [Zach Kayser and Chelsey Perkins, “Controversial Refugee Resettlement Speaker Draws 200 to Presentation,” Brainerd Dispatch, 2016.01.06].
I’m not sure how a guy wraps himself in the flag and Constitution and opposes the people’s right to vote. But I do understand why clueless Trumpist demagogues go around stoking rural white Americans fears of immigration, Muslims, and change. Branstner’s speech Thursday seems unlikely to bring us any new factual information; it only seeks to play to and exacerbate existing prejudices and misconceptions against the new Americans we need to keep building the American dream.
Minnesota’s minimum wage rises to $9.50 an hour today, capping a three-phase increase from $6.15 an hour prior to 2014. Small employers—firms with annual revenues under $500K—get a break, paying $7.75 an hour.
Some question whether the recent minimum wage increases have hurt job growth in the state. Recent studies indicate the answer is no, according to Ann Markusen, who directs the Humphrey School of Public Policy’s Project on Regional and Industrial Economics. For starters, she said raising the pay of lower wage workers helps stimulate the local economy.
“Because you are putting more money into the lowest paid workers’ pockets, they are going to spend it and they are apt to spend it in their own communities,” Markusen said [Heather J. Carlson, “Minnesota’s Minimum Wage Jumps to $9.50,” Rochester Post-Bulletin, 2016.08.01].
But employers are going to lay people off, and there will be fewer job opportunities, right?
Again, research says no:
In addition, she said most of the jobs that pay minimum wage are in retail, personal services or the food industry and are selling to people locally. When the minimum wage goes up, all the competitors in the community are impacted so no business has a competitive advantage of over another. Markusen said research has shown that instead of laying off employees when the minimum wage goes up, employers are apt to boost training to try to increase the productivity of their workers. They will also absorb a loss in profits and sometimes will increase costs of products slightly [Carlson, 2016.08.01].
As in South Dakota, the economy in Minnesota will likely cruise along without any harm from the higher minimum wage. Remember that when you vote NO on Referred Law 20 this November and protect the minimum wage for South Dakota’s young workers.
An eager reader points to a May article indicating that there is no evidence that Minnesota’s rich folks are fleeing to other states to hide their wealth from the new higher income tax tier Governor Mark Dayton got passed in 2013:
Critics predicted that the ultra-affluent would flee after Gov. Mark Dayton secured 2013 passage of a new income tax tier of 9.85 percent on individuals who make more than $156,000 a year. But the latest data show that the number of people who filed tax returns with over $1 million in income grew by 15.3 percent in the year after the tax passed, while the new top tier of taxpayers grew by 6 percent [Adam Belz and J. Patrick Coolican, “There’s No Evidence That Ultrarich Are Fleeing Minnesota,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2016.05.07].
Belz and Coolican do find some data indicating that, prior to Governor Dayton’s tax hike, Minnesota’s wealthy class wasn’t growing as quickly as South Dakota’s:
Between 2005 and 2014, the number of tax returns filed with more than $1 million in income rose on average 8 percent each year in Iowa, 8.5 percent per year in Wisconsin and 3 percent per year in Minnesota. From 1997 to 2013, South Dakota, which has no state income tax, nearly quadrupled its number of tax filers who earn more than $1 million per year [Belz and Coolican, 2016.05.07].
But note that Minnesota has had and South Dakota has resisted state income tax since well before that period. South Dakota’s higher growth rate may just mean we’re playing catch-up from a far lower percentage of wealthy residents. We still haven’t caught up: in 2015, 6.0% of Minnesota households had over a million dollars in investable assets; 5.1% of South Dakota households had comparable wealth.
Oh, and Minnesota has five billionaires; South Dakota only has one. The states with the most billionaires, California and New York, have top marginal income tax brackets of 13.3% and 8.82%, respectively.