Mixed reviews of the 2013 session

It was utterly dismaying to watch the legislative session end with ruling party members slapping themselves on the back for passing a budget that is arguably one of the most anti-growth, anti-job, tax-and-spend fiascos in modern state government history.

The mathematics of the deficit dictated, at most, if there were no spending cuts, the need to raise $630 million. What did the DFL-led government do? It imposed more than $2 billion in new taxes.

There are about 25,000 small businesses that have just been hit with a 25 percent tax increase. What the intelligentsia in St. Paul chose to conveniently ignore is that many of those businesses file taxes using their personal income tax returns.

No wonder businesses move to North Dakota (51 percent lower taxes), Wisconsin (21 percent), Iowa (10 percent) and South Dakota (100 percent). Yes, the South Dakota business climate is No. 1 in the nation for entrepreneurs according to the Small Business Survival Index, while Minnesota ranked 40th in 2010 and undoubtedly will rate even worse in 2013. Way to go, DFL, which obviously means “ Democrats for Layoffs. “

DALE EKMARK, Angora, Minn.

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When a celebration broke out following the passage of the bill to allow child-care workers and personal care attendants to organize unions, state Sen. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, was quoted as saying, ”We’re not in charge, let them applaud. They own the place.” He was absolutely correct. The people do own the place.

For the past 10 years they have been wandering around in the desert of a Republican Legislature and administration. Finally, a responsive Legislature and governor have led them to the promised land of workplace democracy, where a free people can decide for themselves whether they want union representation. It is the American way.


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On Syria, there really are no easy answers

Lloyd Axworthy’s commitment to creative and humanitarian diplomacy is unquestionable (“Turning our attention to Syria …,” May 20). However, the violence in Syria is not simply a question of the Assad regime’s oppression, but also massive outside support for opposition fighters from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, and from Iran for the Syrian government.

Axworthy advocates using the Responsibility to Protect doctrine to address the behavior of the government and the plight of the refugees, ignoring in his commentary other actors who are worsening this already bad situation.

Sadly, this shows that once again R2P is being used to serve the strategic interests of major powers, especially the U.S. government, which views Syria in the prism of Iran-Israel tensions rather than actual sources of funding for the violence. While laudable in intent, R2P appears to be largely a more attractive cover for traditional power politics.


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Midway redevelopment is overlooked benefit

As an owner of the Black Dog Café in St. Paul’s Lowertown, I carefully read Robert Grenier’s commentary (“Downtown St. Paul ballpark estimates: Just a bit high?,” May 18). Grenier neglected to factor the significant economic benefits the city will realize from the vacated Midway Stadium site. While there is rightly much focus on economic development around the Lowertown site, the jobs, investment and tax revenue created at the Midway site are equally important to the city.

Midway Stadium sits in the middle of a very successful, job-generating business park. The Port Authority expects some $15 million in private investment in new buildings on the Midway site, producing $600,000 in property tax revenue and leading to the addition of perhaps 300 jobs.

So what we really got is a two-for-one deal: A prime development parcel to generate private investment and tax revenue, and a ballpark that reclaims a polluted site, connects downtown to the Vento nature area, spurs investment, increases vitality in Lowertown, and provides a great venue for the Saints and amateur baseball.

What’s not to like?


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If you look, there are plenty of local bargains

A recent letter drew a link between ticket prices for a touring Broadway musical and reduced access to the arts for ordinary citizens and their families.

It’s indeed crucial that the people of Minnesota be able to afford to attend the arts, both for their own enjoyment and for the health and future of our culture and society —the priorities reflected in our state’s remarkable Legacy Amendment reflect this commitment. And for the $300 price tag the letter writer cited for a pair of tickets, there are many other ways to attend the theater in the Twin Cities.

At the Guthrie Theater, for instance, there are season ticket packages that would enable two people to see all nine plays of its upcoming season for less than $300 in fact, every play at the Guthrie this current season has a lowest ticket price of $30 or less, before any discounts for students or seniors or rush lines. Even for “A Christmas Carol,” often the Guthrie’s hottest annual ticket, $300 on average would purchase four adult and four children’s tickets for a family outing.

The Guthrie isn’t alone: Upcoming shows at Twin Cities theater venues including the Ordway, the Jungle Theater, Park Square Theatre and the family-oriented Children’s Theatre Company offer a wide range of entertainment in a roughly similar price range.

The letter writer’s point that individuals can be priced out of enjoying the arts, to the detriment of all of us, is a very good one, and worthy of wholehearted agreement. How fortunate, then, that we live in a community with so many options in the arts that are affordable, accessible and world class in quality.

QUINTON SKINNER, Director of Communications, Guthrie Theater