Readers Write (Feb. 20): State budget, the environment, St. Thomas

  • Updated: February 19, 2013 - 7:36 PM

No one, including Gov. Mark Dayton, believes a “Plan C” is just about taxes.

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STATE FINANCE

Plan C must include spending reform, too

Minnesota’s budget has two parts: spending and revenue. The Feb. 17 Star Tribune editorial, “A better state budget omits services tax,” addressed the latter, but made scant mention of the former (promising more specifics later). We believe that all engaged in the debate — including the Editorial Board — should put as much effort into the spending side of the equation as the tax side.

A closer examination surely provides opportunities to save money in the state’s $30 billion-plus general fund. No one, including Gov. Mark Dayton, believes a “Plan C” is just about taxes. Where are the ideas for focusing spending on the state’s highest priorities, minimizing it everywhere else, and redesigning all services to deliver the greatest value for every dollar spent?

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has several ideas and is discussing them with policymakers. We welcome any and all ideas from the Star Tribune and others.

Laura Bordelo, St. Paul

The writer is senior vice president for advocacy at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

• • •

Comparing Minnesota to a business is inappropriate (“A good manager would make higher taxes his last resort,” Feb. 15). If Minnesota were a business, the governor (CEO) would be compensated in the millions, and the Enron-style accounting under the Pawlenty administration that led us to the $1.1 billion shortfall would have been criminal. More important, state government is charged with providing services that Minnesotans need and want. We Minnesotans generally want our laws enforced, education for the next generations, our infrastructure to function, and some support for the most vulnerable members of our society. We also expect fairness on how we pay for all of this. Dayton’s budget proposals attempt to redress the imbalance of the last decade.

David Riggs, St. Paul

• • •

A Feb. 17 letter writer implied that Dayton’s proposal would raise taxes on the wealthy by 25 percent. That is certainly not the governor’s proposal. He only proposes raising the marginal tax rate (for incomes over $250,000) by 25.4 percent. Using the 2012 Minnesota tax tables, for a person with an income of $300,000, that would mean an increase in taxes from about $18,500 to $19,500, or about 0.5 percent, not 25 percent. Frankly, I’d love to be in that income group and pay the extra one-half percent.

I’m no fan of taxes, but any time propaganda about taxes starts to circulate, lack of understanding of the basic math of marginal rates vs. total tax rates is often appalling. We all pay the same marginal tax rates; it’s just that many of us have no incomes to declare for the top two or three marginal rates. The wealthiest of us pay no higher a rate for the first $24,000 of income than the poorest of us (5.35 percent). The logic of a progressive tax is that the first $24,000 is rather more essential to our economic survival than the 25th $24,000 that we make in a year.

James Grimmer, Bloomington

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THE ENVIRONMENT

Mining is a risky way to jolt an economy

A Feb. 19 letter writer (“Mining could be our economic boom”) thinks we should charge full steam ahead on mining in northern Minnesota. He lives in Minneapolis and must not appreciate the periodic break the north provides to city dwellers.

Many of us who live up here, and whose livelihood depends on tourism, fiercely disagree. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; the North Shore, and the lakes, rivers and forests of northern Minnesota are irreplaceable and too valuable to risk the pollution and destruction that mining could cause. Also, Native Americans have the right to continue to harvest wild rice, which must have clean water to exist — or is that just another right to take away from them?

Would the letter writer be willing to explain to future generations that short-term money was worth risking the right to enjoy the beauty, peace and quiet of our marvelous natural environment? Please remember that tourism is the main source of income on the North Shore and that we’d like to keep it that way.

Dian Hiniker, Grand Marais, Minn.

• • •

Bonnie Blodgett (“On pipeline, a betrayal may be delivered,” Feb. 17) and others have written excellent commentary in opposition to the proposed Keystone pipeline. I would also like to point out that Canadians themselves have demonstrated strong opposition to Enbridge Corp.’s Northern Gateway twin pipeline system that would carry tar-sands crude from near Edmonton, Alberta, to Kitimat, British Columbia. It is opposed by First Nations groups, fishermen, environmental groups and the Union of BC Municipalities. A recent National Geographic article pointed out the danger of spills in pristine wilderness.

It appears that while the Canadian government is very supportive of running TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline through the United States, it is backing away from support for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline crossing its own territory. Both companies have large pipeline spills on their records and, undoubtedly, there will be more.

William D’Amour, Brooklyn Center

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UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS

College presidency should go to a priest

Congrats and best wishes to the new president of St. Thomas (“More St. Thomas growth: First woman lay president,” Feb. 15). However, the Board of Trustees changing its bylaws to allow a noncleric to be president is a slap in the face to the more than 40,000 priests in the United States. There are plenty of priests who would be excellent St. Thomas presidents. As both an undergraduate and graduate student at St. Thomas, having a priest as president was a great source of pride. As students, we knew the administration cared as much for a student’s spiritual well-being as for the university’s performance.

Charlie Casserly, Minneapolis

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