Lori Sturdevant’s Feb. 5 Short Takes item (“Conflicts of interest”) misses a very big point in the role of a state senator regarding Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm. Tomassoni has been lobbying for the Iron Range communities he represents for the last 20 years, whether the Legislature is in session or not. He has no conflict of interest; he will advocate, lobby and fight for the interests of the Iron Range whether he has the job as executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools or not. It is what we should expect from all of our legislators.

Sturdevant’s article points out the low pay that folks in the Legislature receive for serving the state and also points out that many legislators have positions that require them to declare conflict of interests. Tomassoni’s new position is finally paying him for what he has done for his community for decades. He is just better than most and earned the executive director job with his years of service to his community.

Ken Kelash, Minneapolis

The writer is a retired state senator.

TAXES

You know, elders, we get things in return

When I read letters like those in Thursday’s paper (“To the contrary: Do lighten elders’ burden”), I’m a little embarrassed to be an elder. From what I see of my peers, we are much better off than our children and certainly better off than our grandchildren. While we worked, we had better insurance coverage and paid a lot less for it, and our incomes rose pretty steadily to keep up with the cost of raising a family.

Most of us have exceeded the amount we paid into Medicare with our first, or at least our second, artificial joint, or for repeated hospital admissions for heart attacks. I think some of us have collected more in Social Security checks than we paid in to that program because we are living so much longer than anyone expected.

It’s true that the government keeps what’s been paid into Social Security and Medicare if we die before we use it — but so do the insurance companies. In fact, the company that provides insurance for my kids has to collect a substantial margin of unused premiums to pay its CEO and stockholders.

The few of my peers who sit around whining about taxes, and referring to taxation as a form of robbery, count heavily on a prompt response from the fire department when our alarms go off in error. Some of us call the police for pretty silly problems, and expect them to show up and be polite. Most of us still use the roads and complain about potholes. We expect prompt response from an ambulance if we have a stroke. As a group we live comfortably, travel a bit, watch cable TV, eat out now and then, and make gifts to our children to help them with the bills.

Patricia Reeves, Prior Lake

• • •

The Feb. 4 editorial (“Don’t lighten elder income tax load”) expressed concerns about equally distributing the tax burden among all citizens. Yet it chose to concentrate only on the progressive income tax, while ignoring the almost arbitrary property tax.

Most homeowners in the state are boomers, not millennials. And for many, property taxes are often as high as or higher than the state income tax. Worse, regardless of the homeowners’ income, property taxes rise in an arbitrary manner that often makes the house unaffordable for longtime owners.

Perhaps it is time to eliminate the property tax and fund local government with a progressive income tax. Local governments can submit their budgets to the state and, based on ZIP codes, our state taxes can be adjusted accordingly.

Hanna Hill, Plymouth

• • •

One of the arguments put forth in the Feb. 4 editorial to refute the “double taxation” position of some is that during one’s earning years, the employer paid one-half of the FICA obligation. Should any credit then be given to those self-employed or small-business individuals who have throughout their earning years paid both sides of FICA? During the 25 years that I spent as an independent contractor, I generally paid in excess of 40 percent in federal and state taxes, plus full FICA, on a very modest income. During that same period we were, of course, also obliged to buy our own health insurance and contribute to our IRAs. For a country enraptured by entrepreneurship, we certainly don’t do a lot to encourage it.

Walter Weaver, Minneapolis

 

MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOLS

I’ll bet Better Ed is enjoying the publicity

Running the story about the billboard across from the Minneapolis public schools headquarters (“Critic’s blunt billboard can’t be missed by its target,” Feb. 5) was ridiculous. The Star Tribune essentially published a lightly modified version of “Better Ed’s” news release, giving this well-heeled libertarian trolling factory legitimacy.

Simply having the money to pay for misleading and emotionally manipulative postcards and billboards (as well as heavy-handed news releases) is not newsworthy on its own. Perhaps a piece of investigative journalism about the organization’s links to the so-called “State Policy Network” (which boasts “shoot-first” lobbying groups) would be more enlightening for readers. Don’t help trolls draw attention to their bogus nonsense!

Dan Ott, Minneapolis

• • •

I don’t know whether the Minneapolis School District pays too much or too little per student. What I do know is that operating an enterprise as large as the school system is about much more than per-student funding. Old buildings, heating and electric, snow removal, janitorial service, payroll and accounting, and much more are a drain on the bottom line.

What I also know is that a clique of grasping capitalists would like nothing better than to have access to that public money to enrich themselves.

John Lowen, Minneapolis

 

TRAILS

Promoting biking is an admirable Legacy goal

I take extreme issue with a Feb. 5 letter writer’s shortsighted view of funding more trails with Legacy Amendment funds (“Your money makes asphalt. Is that what you wanted?”)

The Twin Cities metro area is without question one of the most bike-friendly urban areas in the country, and continued efforts to rid the streets of automobile traffic by growing the trail system further enhances the health of the individuals biking to work, and at what cost — a ribbon of asphalt 10 feet wide? C’mon, man!

No solution works perfectly for everyone, but expanding the trail system has a minimal impact on the environment it traverses and a maximum benefit for those lucky enough to be able to ride through such beautiful areas on their way to work or wherever, with the additional impact of reducing carbon emissions.

Mark Gallagher, Antioch, Calif.

The writer is a native of Robbinsdale.