Sign-up for the vaccine lottery today was easy for my wife and me, much improved over last week ("206,000 enter state's lottery for inoculations," front page, Jan. 27). Now we are in a large pool awaiting the luck of the draw. As I completed the survey I wondered if several of the general-information questions might be replaced with questions aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the vaccine distribution by determining two or three levels of need. For example: 1) Are you older than 75? (Both my wife and I are under 75 so this would not help us.) 2) Are you scheduled to have or are waiting to have major surgery in the next three months? I have a friend waiting to have heart-valve repair and getting vaccinated would eliminate one more worry. 3) Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the last six months? If so, those folks could be placed in a lower level of need, as they likely already have some protection. Perhaps there are more or better questions to be asked, but you get the idea.

Questions like these could be easily scored by computer. Establishing three levels, for instance, would allow the ratio of vaccine available to be more effectively targeted, say 60 to 66% for the upper level, 30 to 33% for the middle level, and 1 to 10% for the lower level. Luck of the draw would still be in place, but weighted toward those with greater need.

Gary S. Pearce, Blaine

SENIOR LIVING

Huge thanks to the staff

With as stressful a time as this COVID pandemic has been for nursing homes and senior living, we especially want to express our appreciation for all our staff and volunteers who found reasons to be cheerful, kind and resourceful.

We are two lifelong friends and, at 88, have lived most of our lives in the Wayzata area. We are now both residents of Deephaven Woods Senior Living and would like to compliment the entire staff here for keeping us updated regularly on the pandemic and what we needed to do to be safe. The restrictions were hard — masks, distancing, limited contact and activities — but we have been amazed at the creative ways we have been kept engaged and busy. For a few months we had a four-page "Daily Chronicle" delivered to our door complete with puzzles and contests; several outdoor concerts and parades where we needed to sit outside or watch from windows. At Christmas, there was a 50-car parade all decked out in Christmas lights and decorations that went around our building several times.

New activities are beginning to be offered (reservations needed for distancing and, of course, masks). Church services for Catholics and Protestants are now available in our chapel. We got our first vaccination last Friday so we see a light at the end of the tunnel! And — the hairdresser is back in the building! Our questions and concerns are respected and answered by managing staff, for whom we are very grateful.

We are blessed to call Deephaven Woods home!

Marilyn Bloom and Barbie Magnuson, Wayzata

STATE BUDGET

Fundamental rethinking required

As expected, Gov. Tim Walz has proposed increasing taxes yet again to close the state's forecast budget deficit ("Walz's budget raises taxes on wealthy," front page, Jan. 27). Spending more of other people's money is an easy thing to do — until they move. By further diminishing Minnesota's already sluggish economic competitiveness, the governor's plan will send more businesses and affluent investors to friendlier tax climes — and good jobs and valuable municipal revenue with them.

Minnesota is a wonderful place to live, but not such a hot place to do business. We already have the fifth-highest tax burden in the United States. And, quite alarmingly, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, the North Star state ranks an abysmal 46th out of 50 in terms of healthy commercial environments. "Minnesota Nice" apparently does not apply to our attitude toward commerce.

I agree with Democratic leaders that the wealthy and well-off do not need any support or special breaks from state government, but by once again jacking up the already-high price to do business here in Minnesota, we will see a further exodus of economic activity — and with that, career opportunities so many of us want and need. Handouts from the Capitol make a disappointing status quo slightly more tolerable for everyday Minnesotans, but worthwhile and well-paying employment is what can truly transform lives — and only a robust private economy can generate that.

The state of Minnesota's budget is in the red because it is big, bloated and wasteful. St. Paul is spending more on its massive bureaucracy, out-of-control entitlements and sprawling, often overpaid and underworked personnel than ever before. State leaders need to do what families and business owners ravaged by the pandemic have had to do: Live within their means.

Andy Brehm, St. Paul
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I appreciate the vision of Gov. Walz's proposed budget, especially his willingness to stand up for those most negatively impacted in Minnesota in the last year: students, small-business owners and lowest earners, including the unemployed. For our state to truly recover from this pandemic, we need everyone to contribute their fair share, which means expecting more from individuals and corporations who have thrived. Walz's budget provides this equity by only increasing taxes on those who are already extremely financially comfortable. More so, many of the priorities laid out in his budget will positively benefit everyone, including his policies on paid family leave, increased broadband access and small-business funding.

These issues shouldn't be partisan since they benefit people across income level, political party and legislative district. I urge Minnesota's elected leaders in both the state House and the Senate to support Walz's budget as it provides for the good of all Minnesotans, not just those who have flourished in the last year. Only together, with everyone contributing their fair share, can we emerge from this pandemic a stronger Minnesota.

Lindsay Blahnik, St. Paul

$15 MINIMUM WAGE

Once again, it's a bad idea

Michael Strain's article "The folly of a $15 minimum wage" (Opinion Exchange, Jan. 26) denounces President Joe Biden's dictated $15 minimum hourly federal wage. He notes that the earned-income tax credit is a better (and a proven) way for the whole nation to help raise wages; otherwise, fixing wages is an unjust burden on any individual business.

The ideologist argument is that we ought to create a "living" wage; the $15 minimum being inevitable progress to a "just wage" in an economic equity utopia.

If dictated economic justice, not economic reality, ought to guide us, why not dictate a $20 or $30 minimum wage? Why not also fix "just prices": bread at $1 a loaf, gasoline at $1 a gallon, or beer neatly pitched at a buck a six-pack?

It might be easy to forget all price fixing failures since the times of the Roman Empire or to ignore recent Venezuelan inflationary poverty wrought by fixed high-priced job losses, low-priced empty gas tanks and empty grocery shelves.

We all need to discuss the trade-offs from dictated prices whether of wages or goods and services to counter inevitable Orwellian newspeak unleashed to convince us that price-fixing can produce economic "equity and justice."

Robert W. Geist, North Oaks
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"The folly of the $15 minimum wage" made me wonder: When will we see a commentary addressing the "folly of paying executives several million dollars each year"?

Betty Wentworth, Minnetonka

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