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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Limit Market Value

Posted: 05/14/05 09:20

By Paul Bartlett

During a recent interview on MPR (05-11-05), Pawlenty stated that he would support a continuation of Limit Market Value (LMV), contradicting his prior position that LMV should be phased-out as scheduled.

LMV is an arcane property tax law that shifts the tax burden from
individuals who have realized the greatest actual or potential capital gain to individuals who have not been so fortunate. It is a scam. It is a disgrace. And, it has created what is possibly the most inequitable property tax system in the country. LMV is Minnesota's version of reverse Robin Hood, where we "take from the poor and give to the rich."

If you own a house that has not kept pace with the inflationary trend, or even worse, if you own a new house, your property tax is likely about 50% higher than it would be without LMV. Your excess tax pays the subsidy to the LMV recipients. LMV violates the intent of Article 10 of the Minnesota Constitution (requiring uniform tax rates) by tinkering with the underlying assessments. The result: Uniform rates but not uniform taxes.

LMV is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2007. There are multiple bills in the legislature to extend LMV beyond that date, and with Pawlenty's flip flop support, extension is nearly fait accompli. If you are concerned with that old fashion notion of tax fairness, call or write Pawlenty and your state House and Senate members and demand an end to LMV.

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Speaking as a Pharmacist

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 05/13/05 12:09

by Dave Mindeman

I happen to be a pharmacist and I hope that people don't get the impression that there are a lot of pharmacists in Minnesota who refuse to fill birth control pills as a matter of "conscience". That is not the case. As in every profession, there will be people who think that their own moral compass must be the guide for everyone. The vast majority of pharmacists do their jobs and complete the orders that your doctor has instructed for you via the prescription in a timely and routine manner.

These cases of pharmacists refusing to fill birth control prescriptions are not standard practice. Unless the pharmacist had an extensive conversation with the patient about their medical history, I would be surprised if the pharmacist in question really knew what the oral contraceptives were for. Birth control pills can be used for other purposes. Irregular or painful menstruation is a common non-contraceptive use. Oral contraceptives are made up of female hormone combinations.. they are not some unusual chemical compound.

But to simply refuse a prescription for a personal moral reason is crossing a line that no profession should allow. I realize the pharmacists in question would say they are acting for "life", at least by their own definition, -- but anyone in any medical profession knows this issue is not black and white, live or die.

The biggest thing I object to here is the copout coming from the employers of the pharmacists. I guess they think they are not offending anyone by saying they are leaving it up to "individual conscience".

Well, I have a problem with that. If my individual conscience can enter in these kind of business decisions, then I will exercise my right of conscience and refuse to collect those $3 co-pays on prescriptions for the indigent. I will exercise my right of conscience when the State of Minnesota refuses to pay for a more expensive heart medication because it doesn't fit into their "cheap" formulary, by giving these patients their legislators phone number. I will exercise my right of conscience when a person of modest means comes to my pharmacy to purchase an expensive drug that I know can be purchased in Canada for half the amount, by helping them to the website. My employer would say I do not have the right to exercise that type of "conscience", and if I did those things I would in all likelihood be fired.

Oral contraception has been a part of our lexicon for several decades now. As the militant anti-abortion community stretches their influence under a permissive right leaning government, we will see the boundaries of allowable behavior stretched to the limit. If this type of argument, used against contraception, is to be consistent, then why aren't they boycotting the fertility clinics? In vitro fertilization accounts for large numbers of discarded fertilized eggs. Yet they turn their heads because to deny infertile couples an opportunity at having children would certainly have a negative effect on public opinion -- oral contraception is easier to complicate because education on the issue can be interpretive.

It is a sad commentary on our times that when a woman walks into a pharmacy to get a prescription filled, she has to risk subjecting herself to an embarrassing and awkward "moral" lecture. If a pharmacist does that to you, don't get mad, get even. Take your complaint to corporate headquarters. Take your business elsewhere and tell your friends to take their business elsewhere. Complain to your insurance carrier and demand an explanation of why a pharmacy contracted with them would be allowed to refuse a legitimate prescription. Complain to your doctor and make sure he documents your complaint. And finally, complain to the State Board of Pharmacy. They are reluctant to get involved at the moment because pharmacists do have some discretion about filling prescriptions because of narcotic situations. However, oral contraceptives do not meet those criteria and if enough complaints come in, they can and will issue a board directive which could allow for disciplinary action.

Please do not judge my profession on the few "wing nuts" that exist in it. Pharmacy has always had an exemplary reputation in the public eye. It is too bad the actions of a few have to blacken it.
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Gonna Sit Right Down and Write those #@$%$#'s A Letter

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 05/11/05 18:26

Writing a letter can be good for the soul and a letter to the editor can be even more satisfying. mnpACT! members have written many letters to the editor and every little bit helps to counter the constant "spin" out there. Letters are the cheapest form of political persuasion and as Yoda would put it, 'persuade we must!" A few samples of letters written and published recently by mnpACT! members follow; if it helps to give you ideas, then get out your pen! Sometimes it takes a few tries before you get one in -- the important thing is don't give up!

You may notice Paul Bartlett's name popping up quite a bit. He is our current Yoda master of the letter and proof positive that the "pen is mightier than the sword!" If you want some advice or help on letter writing, contact us and we will get someone to help. Here we go:

Thank You, Mr President Netlets.. Star Tribune (April 18, 2005)

The stock market had its worst day in two years last Friday, with the DOW tumbling nearly 200 points. I sure wish that I was retired and living off of my personal account.
Heck with a guaranteed annuity (you know, the security portion of Social Security), my retirement could be free of material distractions.
Thank you, Mr. President. With your vision and clear thinking, my grandkids won't need to fight about splitting up the old man's estate; there wouldn't be one.
Paul Bartlett, Eagan.

Pick One (Star Tribune -- April 26, 2005)
Now, this is an interesting bit of hypocrisy. The Minnesota Realtors Association spends $500,000 on anti-tax ads, encouraging the governor and the Legislature to "grow and spend." But no new taxes -- no new investments, really -- essentially means that our already stressed public schools will continue to be nickel and dimed almost to the breaking point. This will eventually show up in lower test scores and lower student achievement. Yet a quick scan of the Sunday classified ads shows dozens of Realtors touting the quality of public schools as a selling point -- "beautiful four bedroom in excellent 196 schools." Those excellent schools are making thousands of additional dollars in commissions for Minnesota Realtors. I guess the skill of talking out of both sides of your mouth isn't limited only to politicians
.Charlene Briner, Rosemount

Tax loans (Star Tribune -- April 26, 2005)

Sen. Norm Coleman observed tax filing day by very publicly condemning tax preparers and their banks for offering clients "Refund Anticipation Loans" at high interest rates. A refund anticipation loan is a loan that is secured by a taxpayer's income tax refund. The term of the loan typically is no more than three weeks. As a seasonal tax preparer, I have had clients who needed their loan to pay for car repairs so they could get to their jobs, to pay rent, or for medical or dental work. This season I had a client whose wallet had been stolen and who needed the money for food for his family. Coleman condemns these loans while at the same time defending his vote for a bankruptcy law that will effectively keep poor and middle-class Americans under the thumb of a lot more banks and credit card companies. It is a law written by the banks and credit card companies for the benefit of the banks and credit card companies, with Coleman's support and his vote.
Michael Romanov, Northfield

Pawlenty sleep? (Pioneer Press, March 24, 2005)

While this governor insists that public workers in general and school employees in particular just suck it up, his financial future looks bright. The Legislative Compensation Council would like to bump his pay by $17,566 to $137,869. His wife, a district court judge, would receive a 6 percent raise through 2006, bumping her salary up to $125,336. That's more than $250,000, plus a mansion, a car and driver, a jet, and much more.
Yet the funding well is dry for MinnesotaCare, education, social services, local government aid, transportation, etc. And, if a locality needs to increase its levy to fill a Pawlenty-created shortfall, he wants to give local malcontents the ability to obstruct a necessary levy increase.
Whether at his home in Eagan or surrounded by the warmth and comfort of his mansion, it's a mystery to me how this governor can sleep at night.
PAUL BARTLETT
Eagan

Social services a wise investment (Eagan ThisWeek 4/1/2005)

The work of a juvenile drug court was reported in Thisweek March 26. Involvement with social services have helped many young people attain sobriety, a laudable accomplishment. The success and social stability of a young person and their family are also furthered by early childhood and family education and success in the school system itself.
This ounce of prevention is renowned as the best investment we can make in our society, according to researchers at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.

Other up-front investments, including transportation, job and business development, and access to health care are catalysts for the orderly operation of an excellent state.
We can hope more conservative elected officials in St. Paul will see the wisdom of this investment, rather than ascribing to harmful, radical positions that prevent our government from doing its job.

SANDRA MASIN
Eagan

Writer considers funding source change
(Rosemount Sun Current.. 5/5/2005)

A letter in the Sun-Current April 28 applauded Republican legislators and the governor for being responsible for a $465 million increase in K-12 education in the state during the current biennium. The letter-writer doesnt mention that increases in state funding in these recent years are due mainly to the state takeover of general education. They represent a change in how we pay for public schools; they dont represent new dollars for education.
The writer further claims the governor proposes to increase state spending for education during the next two years also. He doesnt mention that what the governor proposes does not keep pace with inflation. In other words, school revenue will continue to decline in real dollars per pupil.
These incumbent Republicans did vote for the first real cuts to education in Minnesota history; $185 million last year. They would like to avoid discussing their role in the decline of education funding.
Judy Finger
Apple Valley



School funding (Star Tribune South -- April 6, 2005)
I remember the campaign promises of Republican candidates (Reps. Lloyd Cybart, Dennis Ozment, Tim Wilkin, Lynn Wardlow) in Burnsville, Apple Valley, Eagan and Rosemount. All of them said at every opportunity that, if elected, they would make education a priority. But on March 29, the real test of those promises came due and our south-metro representatives all flunked ("A narrow win for the GOP budget," Star Tribune, March 30). They voted against an amendment that would have allowed for necessary public school funding increases, and they guaranteed us more and deeper cuts in our children's schools, along with unavoidable escalation in the property tax increases we are already experiencing. Minnesota used to be a model for education excellence. We used to expand curriculum, not cut back to mandatory requirements. An invested dollar in education has always brought back a several-fold return. Is education a priority or not? Apparently, with our legislators, what they say isn't always what they mean.
David Mindeman, Apple Valley

Budget cuts hurt education (AV ThisWeek 3/18/2005)


Trips abroad by school chorale members, reported in Thisweek March 12, are obviously things which cannot be paid for out of school funds. Voluntary donations for less luxurious items like paper, pens and pencils are also sought by some teachers in the metro area to compensate for state education budget cuts.
Meanwhile at the Minnesota Legislature the discipline of the Republican majority party in the House of Representatives does not permit individual members to break ranks and support the raising of taxes to restore some of the budget reductions. That kind of rote obedience may be an admirable structure for fighting a war, but this is about educating our kids!
Its also about our own future success and prosperity, however long we live. Claims by some majority folks about their work for programs to help our kids become successful, must be balanced against their votes for cuts to our education budget and the resulting greater numbers of kids in each classroom.

PAUL HOFFINGER
Eagan


Westover and Strom, Peas in a NeoCon Pod
(Pioneer Press May 5, 2005)

Craig Westover's May 4 column was a feeble attempt to polish David Strom's tainted image. Westover and Strom reside in the same neocon camp where truth-twisting is standard operating procedure. Westover's real purpose: Clean up the messenger and maybe the message won't have quite the stink.
The neocons have been very successful at redefining our language. Westover deceitfully described Strom as a "populist." Strom may be a lot of things, but he is certainly not a populist. In fact, Strom represents the very privileged elite that the populists and progressives have opposed over the years. Populists and progressives support more and better public services; Strom's group would love to privatize and eliminate what's left of our public sector.
Language is important. Just because a demagogue can draw a crowd, that does not make him a populist. History is replete with windbags, and while I will avoid unseemly but accurate comparisons, I suggest that the Pioneer Press assign a top-notch editor to keep an eye on Westover. This is not an issue of opinion, it's simple truth-telling. My parakeet says thanks for another Westover column to read while he's doing his business.
PAUL BARTLETT
Eagan

Now that is stupid (Star Tribune May 9, 2005)

We are going to throw 30,000 Minnesotans off health care so that we can protect the taxes of the wealthiest 42,000 Minnesotans from going up (Star Tribune, May 6).
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the House Republicans are telling us that protecting William W. McGuire, the CEO of United Health Care, and his $124.5 million salary package is more important than the health coverage of working class Minnesotans making $35 to $40,000 a year.
Explain "profoundly stupid" to me again.
David Mindeman, Apple Valley.

School vouchers (Star Tribune South -- March 22, 2005)

I was interested to read Rep. Mark Buesgens' defense of education access grants ("All parents deserve school choice," Star Tribune South, March 9). This hopeful sounding name is just the latest attempt by critics of public schools to divert tax dollars to private and religious schools. He claims they will offer increased options to low-income families, but a closer look reveals more questions than answers. Families earning $47,100 or less per year would be eligible to receive $4,601, the amount a public school gets for one student, to pay tuition at a private school.
So what is the mechanism to notify and enroll eligible families? When a family's income exceeds the limit, would they have withdraw their child from the school they have chosen? Unlike public schools that must report test scores, private schools will not have to report results. So there is no mechanism to determine whether this program will even address the underlying achievement problems.
We're not answering the real questions -- how can we fully fund public schools and how can we maximize performance in those schools? Minnesota already leads the nation in public school choice with open enrollment, charter schools and post-secondary options in high school. Until the state reaffirms its commitment to full, equitable and sustainable funding for public schools, any talk of vouchers, tax credits or any other program that diverts funds from public schools is premature at best and irresponsible at worst.
Charlene Briner, Rosemount

Where is Sen. McGinn on NWA job issues?
(Rosemount Sun Current 5/5/2005 10:02:54 AM)

Reduced services at Metro Transit were the topic of hearings in Burnsville April 20 (Sun-Current, April 28). Reductions in public services seem to be matched in job reductions in the metropolitan area.
In the south-metro area there are many resident families whose breadwinners are employed at Northwest Airlines. There has been a great deal of controversy and concern over layoffs of mechanics at NWA.
Those concerns were the focus of two recent meetings of the state Senate Transportation Committee where Northwest CEO Doug Steenland called the outsourcing of jobs at NWA, a tried and true practice.
As senators engaged Steenland on this and other concerns about jobs and plans to tear down maintenance hangars, Sen. Mike McGinn of Eagan-Burnsville was not present at the meeting. In fact, when the Senate Transportation Committee voted 12 to 1 a week earlier to subpoena Steenland, Sen. McGinn didn't vote.
While we may be able to debate whether what NWA is doing is the right thing, we all need to ask; where is Sen. McGinn on this issue and why isn't he voting? A lot of families, employees of NWA and voters deserve to know where McGinn stands on this issue and why he isn't representing their concerns.
Paul Hoffinger
Eagan



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