IS GRASS GREENER?
Neighboring states have their own issues
A Jan. 29 letter implied that Wisconsin is doing better economically than Minnesota because the state has a revenue surplus. Never mind that it happened on the backs of schools, health care and an unprecedented attack on the very people who make Wisconsin work. Perhaps the writer didn't see the dilapidated welcome center and rest stop in Hudson with a "For Sale" sign on it? That doesn't look like a successful state to me. Qualified teachers are leaving the state en masse. Doesn't sound like a bright future for the state of Wisconsin, does it?
As far as North Dakota is concerned, we really don't know what the effects of long-term fracking will be on the future of the state, but when I see articles that the oil companies have to buy cisterns for drinking water on family farms, I have to think all the money in the world isn't going to save them from being poisoned.
I'll take Gov. Mark Dayton's leadership and his plan for fair taxation any day of the week.
PATRICK GUERNSEY, ST. PAUL
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Klobuchar's bill is a blow to middle class
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar believes using H-1B visas to hire foreign workers will stop America's "brain drain" ("Bill raises visa total for foreign workers," Jan. 29). This is another blow to our struggling middle class.
Our corporations export jobs overseas, and now they are screaming to import workers to compete with Americans. Universities and businesses love foreign workers because they pay more in tuition and they work for less with fewer benefits.
Foreign students are here because we have the best education to offer. Perhaps the problem would be solved if we admitted more of our own students (the children of taxpaying citizens) into our universities rather than having them compete with wealthy students from abroad.
A. TREISE, MINNEAPOLIS
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Story gave a distorted view of plans' health
A Jan. 19 Star Tribune article stated that Minnesota's public pension plans are "worse off than they were" before sustainability legislation was enacted in 2010. This claim is highly misleading.
The numbers used to back up this claim averaged gain and loss experiences of the funds over five years. Since only two years have passed since the 2010 pension reforms, it is misleading to cite these numbers and build a case that the funds are worse off.
In fact, on a market -- or real -- value basis, the Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS) General Plan has improved from 65.6 percent funded in 2009 to 82 percent funded in 2012, thanks in large part to the 2010 reforms. The Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) General Plan went from 53.8 percent funded in 2009 to 73 percent funded in 2012. And the Teachers Retirement Association (TRA) went from 59.8 percent funded in 2009 to 72.5 percent funded in 2012. In total, the 2010 reforms reduced benefit liabilities for the pension funds by $5.9 billion.
In addition, the article unfairly cherry-picked a particularly bad investment return year to create the wrong impression about the period following the 2010 reforms. The article stated that the State Board of Investment "saw only a 1.5 percent rate of return" in 2011. True enough. But SBI also returned 14.4 percent in 2010 and 13.7 percent in 2012, facts that the article omitted. Since 1980, the SBI has returned an average of 9.9 percent per year, placing it in the top third among institutional investors nationwide.
The boards of directors, executives and stakeholders of the three statewide retirement systems continually monitor the funds' health and have a history of recommending proactive reforms that the state Legislature has adopted in a bipartisan manner to ensure financial stability. Skewed stories such as these do a disservice to our 729,000 active and retired members as well as taxpayers. Please be more thorough and accurate in the future.
LAURIE FIORI HACKING, DAVE BERGSTROM, MARY MOST VANEK
Fiori Hacking is executive director of the Teachers Retirement Association; Bergstrom is executive director of the Minnesota State Retirement System; and Most Vanek is executive director of the Public Employees Retirement Association.
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Conscientious objector part of U experiments
The Jan. 29 New York Times story you published on the death of Max Kampelman ("Cold war arms negotiator Max Kampelman dies") omitted what may be the most heroic part of his story and the origin of his connection with Minnesota. Kampelman was a conscientious objector in World War II and volunteered for medical experiments conducted by the government. He was part of the famous starvation experiment at the University of Minnesota and endured the hunger and stayed the full course of the experiment, all the way down to the skin-and-bones condition. His papers and interviews, collected by the Minnesota Historical Society, have been a major source of history about the experiment -- especially about the human side. Let's not forget this part of the Kampelman story.
RHODA R. GILMAN, ST. PAUL
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Glad to see Stanek has had a change of heart
Great photo of Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek with President Obama ("Obama turns to law officers for help," Jan. 29). As I recall from back in the day, as a state representative Stanek was an outspoken supporter of Minnesota's lax conceal-and-carry gun law. He argued that police chiefs should not have the authority to prohibit risky individuals from carrying loaded handguns.
I hope his support for background checks represents a genuine change of heart.
REBECCA THOMAN, MINNEAPOLIS