The land of 10,000 lakes

July 12, 2011

It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful name for a state than Minnesota, which comes from a Dakota Sioux word for “sky-tinted water.” Today the state is popularly known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” a nickname that conjures up images of primal forests, deep waterways and lots of summer mosquitoes.

The reasonable-looking man in the video above is Mark Dayton, the governor of Minnesota. Governor Dayton, a Democrat, has shut down the state government over an impasse with Republicans in the state legislature. Bloomberg reports:

The 12-day impasse is the longest of the nation’s six state government shutdowns since 2002 by four days, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It has idled about 23,000 state workers, closed agencies and stopped construction projects statewide.

This is the sixth shutdown in the Land of 10,000 Lakes since 2002? It makes me wonder if this is a sort of state holiday that Minnesotans have become used to having. There are many who rely on vital services provided by the state, so I certainly don’t mean to be flippant, but fortunately the state has created a process overseen by a judge to ensure that vital state services are maintained.

What is Governor Dayton fighting for? Dayton said this in response to a bi-partisan commission, led by former Vice President Walter Mondale [emphasis mine]:

“I note that most of the Committee’s recommendations parallel my own proposals. They recommend $2.2 billion in permanent spending cuts; I have detailed almost $2.1 billion in spending reductions. They recommend $700 million in increased revenues from increased alcohol and tobacco taxes and a human service surcharge; yesterday I proposed raising $700 million from a tobacco tax increase, other tax reforms, and health care surcharges.

“I respectfully differ with the Committee on their recommendation of a 4% temporary income tax surcharge on all Minnesota taxpayers. My goal has consistently been to protect most Minnesotans from either an income tax increase or a property tax increase, by raising state income taxes on only the wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans. Most other Minnesotans are already over-taxed, due primarily to the 75% increase in property taxes statewide during the previous eight years.

Governor Dayton also sent a very reasonable letter to the leadership of legislative Republicans.

Here is a breakdown of first quarter state tax revenues for Minnesota. Dayton is aiming to raise income taxes on 7,700 state residents who earn more than $1 million per year:

Wikipedia says this about Minnesota’s tax base:

Minnesota has a slightly progressive income tax structure; the three brackets of state income tax rates are 5.35%, 7.05% and 7.85%. As of 2008, Minnesota was ranked as 12th in the nation for per capita total state and local taxes.

In 2008, Minnesotans paid 10.2% of their income in state and local taxes, compared to the US average of 9.7% of income. The state sales tax in Minnesota is 6.875%, but there is no sales tax on clothing, prescription drug medications, some services, or food items for home consumption.

My editors urged me to write about Minnesota several days after their government shut down. I felt the story hadn’t really ripened up — we are still in the early innings. Let’s sit back and watch Governor Dayton engage those on the other side of the aisle.

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