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The story "Suit: Sex offenders are denied release" (March 22), regarding delayed processing and release of individuals at Minnesota's Sex Offender Program, is just a hint of the problematic practice of incarcerating individuals who have already served their criminal sentence established by the courts and have participated in the state's sexual treatment and therapy program.
Minnesota is one of only 20 states practicing civil commitment for individuals convicted of a sex-related crime. It is the largest and most expensive in the nation. Average length of commitment is the longest. The program has grown from 200 individuals in 2003 to 771 in 2021.
The length of commitment is indeterminate. Some residents are in their 80s; some have been there for 30 years. In the last 30 years, only 17 individuals have been released and 95 have died there. Yet the rate of sexual aggression and abuse in Minnesota has not been reduced by maintaining this program.
MSOP costs taxpayers $101.8 million a year with no statutory or implied limit, and no limit to the number of individuals assigned to commitment.
Sexual violence and assault are heinous crimes and can leave a history of pain and trauma. Some of the individuals currently confined at MSOP should continue residential treatment and therapy. But the opportunities to invest in prevention, education, civic involvement, effective treatment and reducing this behavior are being ignored. Repentance, reform, rehabilitation and healing are possible.
MSOP was established through legislative action, yet the Legislature has hidden from responsible discussion or analysis of the issue due to fear of political repercussion. Rather than penalizing lawmakers for examining the policies, practices and outcomes of MSOP, their constituents should require them to responsibly address these fundamental problems, and do it without personal disparagement or pursuit of political gain.
Steve Sandell, Woodbury
The writer is a former state representative and member of the House Human Services Committee.
Good gracious, that's a lot
The front-page article "DFL sees spending increase of 30%" (March 22) read more like a DFL press release than a news article. I sincerely hope the DFL isn't proposing "using up all of Minnesota's surplus." If a substantial rainy-day reserve isn't part of the plan, everyone ought to be outraged. Not that there isn't lots more to stir the ire of taxpayers.
The increases in education (preschool, elementary, secondary and higher education) are in the face of declining enrollment. Apparently, the cost per student is no longer relevant. Administrative costs at the University of Minnesota driven by the number of administrators and the rate of compensation have been the subject of concern of late. The fact that many of those costs are duplicated in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system also seems to be ignored. The surplus seems to have made cost containment unnecessary. (The real tragedy in this duplication is the absence of a coherent vision and plan for delivering postsecondary education and training.)
State tax rates matter. Where companies and individuals choose to locate hinges on costs as well as infrastructure — not to mention weather. Google "Minnesota tax burden" and you'll see that we rank sixth in overall tax burden: fifth for income taxes, 20th for sales and excise taxes, and 23rd for property taxes.
Minnesota is home to 16 Fortune 500 companies. Do tax rates matter to those companies and other companies? How about the executives of those companies? Regardless of the "fairness" attributed to corporate profits or executive compensation, the reality is that they are what they are, and Minnesota is in competition with other states.
While it appears that some action will be taken on the taxation of Social Security, we will still likely be one of a small number of states that tax some or all Social Security. Taxing Social Security only adds to the tax burden facing retirees as they choose where to call their tax home.
One piece of good news: Rather than comprise with the opposition, the DFL will not pursue a bonding bill, choosing to finance projects from the surplus, which the DFL can do without any Republican support. Borrowing money in light of a $17 billion surplus is the prudent course.
Finally, I do hope we've heard the last of "full funding" and "fair" from the DFL for a while.
Nick LaFontaine, Richfield
What happened to "One Minnesota" and a stated desire to achieve a level of bipartisanship? The DFL's action is a classic example of railroading a divisive agenda. Gov. Tim Walz's smiling face can be found in "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations" next to "To the victor go the spoils."
Lindsay Kruh, Edina
Minnesota vs. Florida? Don't go there
In an immature act of cheap political theater, Gov. Tim Walz set up a Little Free Library outside his office offering books such as "To Kill a Mockingbird" that he claims are banned in the state of Florida ("Walz touts state as progressive refuge," March 23). It seems the governor is about as dishonest these days as he is divisive. According to the Associated Press, no such ban exists.
But why in the world would our politically astute governor want to contrast things here with the thriving Sunshine State? It's not a very flattering comparison.
Florida is the fastest growing state in the Union, with 300,000-plus Americans, thousands of them former Minnesotans, migrating there just last year alone. Our state, on the other hand, lost over 20,000 residents in 2022. That trend is expected not only to continue, but worsen — and has placed Minnesota in the unenviable position of having to support its ballooning bureaucracy with a shrinking tax base.
The state's hostile tax and regulatory regime not only repels population but economic activity as well. According to the Center of the American Experiment, between 2018 and 2021 during the first Walz term, Florida's real GDP grew by 9.3% — compared to a paltry 2.8% economic expansion in the North Star State. And total employment actually fell in Minnesota by 2.2% while it rose in Florida by 5.3% during that same period. Ouch.
If you don't believe these numbers, take a trip to downtown Tampa and downtown Minneapolis and compare the vibrancy. It's not a close call.
It must be tough for Walz to keep a straight face when he says Florida is where "freedom goes to die." Few will forget his love affair with inefficacious lockdowns during the pandemic. While Florida's economy and schools remained open, Walz decimated small family businesses, student learning and Minnesotans' mental health with his endless closures that produced no measurable medical benefit.
Another major plus of living here, according to Walz, is the wildly extreme gubernatorial agenda on social issues we all get to enjoy. But his far-left advocacy is out of touch with most Americans and even his own constituency. For instance, 67% of Minnesotans sensibly oppose allowing sex change operations for children, a precarious practice the Walz administration encourages but one that Florida has rightly and responsibility restricted.
I am surprised Walz seeks the juxtaposition of our state's decline under his leadership with the ascendancy of the Sunshine State under that of Gov. Ron DeSantis. Citizens are voting with their feet, and Walz's Minnesota is losing that contest in a landslide.
Andy Brehm, St. Paul
Not love but ugly possessiveness
It was not a "workplace love triangle" that "was behind man's shooting death outside Howard Lake business" as headlined in the March 22 Star Tribune ("Charge: A workplace love triangle was behind fatal shooting"). It was a possessive, controlling and angry man with access to an "AR-15 assault-style rifle" who murdered another man. Please, Star Tribune, do not mischaracterize the reasons people kill other people. It is never due to love.
Ellen Samuelson Young, Minneapolis