A surplus? OK, then — dibs on that money

Regarding using the “state surplus” to boost the budget reserve, the Dec. 8 editorial neglected one fact. That money does not belong to the state of Minnesota; it belongs to its taxpayers.

Unlike a tax levy, a budget surplus left in the hands of the politicians will undoubtedly be spent with no voter oversight.

The state needs to return those funds to the hardworking people who write the checks.


• • •

I read with interest that Gov. Mark Dayton is eyeing $1 billion in tax cuts with a recently projected surplus after recently selectively raising income taxes. In the interest of fairness (which seems to be a watchword with both our governor and the president), let me suggest that he use this largesse to increase Medicaid payments to Minnesota physicians and eliminate the provider tax. While Minnesotans enjoy the best health care in the country and hence the world, the state reimburses our doctors 47th of all 50 states for Medicaid. In the last 10 years, the rates have been cut roughly in half — to the point where payments don’t come close to covering the costs of services. Meanwhile, the state (under Obamacare) is expanding the Medicaid rolls. This is untenable and amounts to theft of physician services.

Compounding the problem is the tax on physician’s payments of 2 percent. As this tax is on gross collections, it amounts to a 4 percent income tax on a typical practice with 50 percent overhead. Effectively, then, doctors in our state have nearly a 14 percent state income tax rate while receiving payments that don’t cover overhead.

Dayton has no right to give this money to anyone until the state pays its unpaid medical bills to physicians.


• • •

The governor has called for a historic “unsession” for the Legislature when lawmakers convene on Feb. 25. Given the recent announcement of a surplus, the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber strongly urges him to make his first order of business repealing three draconian business-to-business taxes.

The 2013 Legislature enacted numerous changes to tax law that exacerbated the challenging business climate in Minnesota. These new taxes include an increase to individual income taxes, withholding taxes, corporate taxes, sales taxes, estate and gift taxes, and cigarette taxes.

One new cost for Minnesota businesses is the expanded sales tax on business-to-business services requiring Minnesota companies to pay the 6.875 percent sales tax on three significant categories of business-to-business services, including:

1) Labor service charges for repair and maintenance of business equipment and machines.

2) Purchases of telecommunications equipment by telecommunications providers.

3) Storage and warehousing services of business-related goods.

These increased costs create a severe competitive disadvantage and stifle economic growth. Ultimately, the taxes harm employees and consumers through higher prices for goods, lower wages and fewer job opportunities. They also cripple border cities like Fargo-Moorhead, where consumers are lured to the other city that enjoys the fruits of a booming economy.

CRAIG WHITNEY; president and CEO, Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce

• • •

Noted economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said that “the only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”

As the politicians look to use Minnesota’s “projected” budget surplus to their advantage, let’s remember that.

This surplus is real only if all the economic assumptions used by Minnesota’s finance department come true.

And should they play out as forecast, let’s not forget the last six years. Over time, economies only do two things: They go up, and they go down.

The Star Tribune’s call for an expansion and funding of the state’s rainy-day fund makes good sense. While the sun may be shining now, storm clouds are never far away.

TOM BAUMANN, Isanti, Minn.



Those who play actually know the difference

The Dec. 8 Letter of the Day parroted a tired trope about the relationship between violent video games and violent actions. This belief, that violent video games cause violent behavior among those who play them, is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of the psychology of media consumption. As evidence, I would direct the letter writer to a recent open letter to the American Psychological Association asking the group to reevaluate its stance on the correlation between media violence and outwardly violent behavior. The letter was signed by 228 media-studies scholars, sociologists and psychologists, and was an effort to prompt the organization to abandon the politically motivated position that it and the letter writer are supporting.

I am one of the many young people who have spent a significant amount of time playing both football and video games such as “Grand Theft Auto 5.” I have yet to act out violently. Why? Because I come from a loving family and because I am capable of adopting a nuanced view regarding contact sports and media violence.

BRIAN KRAUSE, Minneapolis



… of kindness: They’re appreciated, advanced

Thank you and happy holidays to the couple who anonymously bought dinner for my friend and me last Saturday evening at Zen Box Izakaya. Random acts of kindness are alive and well — and now to “pay it forward.”

KAREN MOELLER, Columbia Heights