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Political notebook: Foundation ranks states on their tax systems

The conservative Tax Foundation likes flat taxes or no taxes, so Minnesota did poorly in its business tax climate ranking and North Dakota didn't do so hot, either.

The conservative Tax Foundation likes flat taxes or no taxes, so Minnesota did poorly in its business tax climate ranking and North Dakota didn't do so hot, either.

The foundation's May background paper said the most business-friendly tax system was in Wyoming, followed by New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska, South Dakota, Florida, Washington, Oregon and Tennessee, in that order.

The worst, the foundation said, is Mississippi, followed by California, Arkansas, Ohio, Nebraska, Hawaii, New York, Maine, Minnesota and Louisiana.

North Dakota is ranked as 32nd in the nation.

The Tax Foundation says it favors states that are minus one or more major taxes. For instance, South Dakota, Nevada, Washington, and Wyoming have no personal or corporate income tax. New Hampshire has no sales tax.


The foundation downgrades states that have multiple-rate corporate or individual income taxes.

See the full document at http://www.taxfoundation.org/businesstaxclimate.html

Wisconsin? Really?

Gov. Tim Pawlenty frequently compares Minnesota to Wisconsin, and he is not the only politicians to do so.

Maybe that's not such a good idea, the Eau Claire (Wis.) Leader-Telegram reports.

"If trends continue, in two decades Wisconsin's average income will be closer to Mississippi's than Minnesota's," an economic expert says.

Economist David Ward said Wisconsin's per-person annual income in 2001 was $29,270, 4 percent below the national average and 13 percent below Minnesota's figure. By 2024, Wisconsin's income will be just 83 percent of the national average, Ward said, unless forecasts are wrong.

Ward said part of the problem is that Wisconsin relies on traditionally low-paying jobs such as agriculture and manufacturing.


Paycheck info

The new North Dakota budget director's salary is $86,000 a year. But Pam Sharp explained last week after her appointment that she's been making the same salary ever since Gov. John Hoeven named her the interim budget director on Jan. 1.

Kevin Cramer, appointed to the Public Service Commission last week, will make $69,874 per year.

Wave the flag

The Minnesota Legislature a few years ago passed a law requiring motorists to stop for a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk.

It isn't working.

The state admitted as much when it placed flags -- colored that bright yellow-green you see on some fire trucks -- in holders along crosswalks around the Minnesota Capitol. The theory is that pedestrians pick up the flags and wave them so drivers stop.

They aren't used much.


State and local governments have used other methods, to varying degrees of success, to get drivers to obey the law.

For instance, skinny, flexible signs have been placed between lanes in St. Paul and other cities warning that the law requires vehicles to stop for pedestrians.

No secret

By the time Hoeven announced he was ready to name a new public service commissioner, most in the know said it would be either Rep. Rae Ann Kelsch, R-Mandan, or Cramer.

Then the governor's announcement to news organizations last Monday morning mistakenly made the announcement several hours ahead of the news conference. There at the bottom of the media advisory was this: "Cramer.pdf."

Job losses

Democrats say Pawlenty's budget will cost Minnesota 15,000 public jobs.

But the DFL's own research indicates the job loss could be more than 21,000 after an average 14 percent cut in state spending.


DFL researchers compared the current budget problems with a similar situation in the early 1980s. Like now, the budget cuts then were about 14 percent. In the 1980s, that resulted in a 6 percent public sector employment job loss.

If the same held true today, 21,286 state and local public jobs would disappear, DFLers say.

Politics is honorable

Cramer was direct when someone hinted at the news conference that he's been around a bit to much in political circles.

The new appointee has been both chairman and executive director of the state Republican Party, candidate for Congress twice and two-time political appointee in Gov. Ed Schafer's administration.

"I never apologize for my political activities," he said. "Some of the best experiences of my life have been running for office," he said.

On the lighter said, he's looking forward to the industry regulation in his new job. The PSC oversees coal mining and reclamation, phone and utility services, grain elevators and auctioneers.

"I can't wait to get to know all the auctioneers," he joked.


Missing representation

Some North Dakota Democratic legislators weren't happy with the makeup of the Legislative Council's interim Economic Development Committee.

At the meeting early this month to finalize all the interim committees, Democrats spoke up when they saw that Sen. Dennis Bercier, D-Belcourt, was not assigned to the Economic Development Committee.

Because Bercier is the only American Indian legislator and the committee is charged with "creating business partnerships with North Dakota Indian tribes," he belongs on the panel, Democrats said.

A motion to put Bercier on the committee failed. Appointments are controlled by the Republican majority.

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