FFM Bulletin 6/2/10

Next on Hoarders: the Northstar Commuter Rail project



Recent Freedom Foundation analysis found that the new Northstar Commuter Rail line relies upon staggering public subsidies. For every passenger on Northstar, taxpayers kick in subsidies of up to $80 per round trip. And it appears the project has no intention to curb its appetite to spend even more taxpayer money.

Currently, Northstar Commuter Rail owns five locomotives, four of which are in regular service with one serving as a backup. Now, despite having no plans to increase frequency of Northstar service, the project is planning to purchase yet another locomotive. The Met Council transportation committee has voted in favor of spending up to $2,850,000 in “contingency funds” for the unnecessary sixth locomotive. It’s worth noting that the federal government only requires Northstar to own four locomotives to successfully operate this commuter rail service.

An additional $10 million in contingency funds were collected from various local, Metropolitan Council and federal sources several years ago.  The purpose of this fund was to ensure that adequate sources were on hand to cover any unexpected project cost overruns.  This $10 million contingency fund remains untouched -- until now.  These are funds that could have otherwise been returned to local governments/taxpayers, while metro-area taxpayers continue to see their property taxes increase. This is yet another small demonstration of how unwilling government is to restrain spending, even for things it doesn’t need.



Short takes



Minnesota's not the only state with antiquated and unduly restrictive laws regarding liquor sales. Read this great op-ed piece that recently appeared in the New York Post by Angela Logomasini of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. If you need a refresher course on Minnesota's city-owned monopolistic liquor operations, read the Freedom Foundation's report, Drinking on the Taxpayers' Dime.

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Edina teachers have an interesting provision in their new contract: paid time off for writing college recommendation letters for students. Even the teachers' union Education Minnesota and the Minnesota Association of School Administrators acknowledge that they've never seen a provision like this in a district's contract with teachers.

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The Associated Press does a nice job summing up the European welfare stateand the crisis it's creating: "Six weeks of vacation a year. Retirement at 60. Thousands of euros for having a baby. A good university education for less than the cost of a laptop."

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A recent analysis of state records by the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota found that 678 state employees receive salaries over $100,000 per year (not including University of Minnesota or MnSCU employees or administrators). When benefits are included, nearly 1,600 state employees receive over $100,000 per year.




FFM in the news




recent piece in the Washington Examiner by columnist Tim Carney discusses the Freedom Foundation's ongoing investigation into a top Obama official's apparent conflict of interest. Cathy Zoi, President Obama's head of energy efficiency and renewable energy, continues to implement measures that benefit "green" materials manufacturer Serious Materials, which employs Cathy Zoi's husband. In addition, Zoi and her husband own 120,000 stock options in Serious Materials.

FFM research was featured in a recent KSTP-TV story on small Minnesota airports. The story exposed how small, lightly traveled airports in Minnesota could receive as much as $400 million in taxpayer money in the next several years for improvements that in many cases are unnecessary and unwarranted.




Watchdog training in Rochester


The Freedom Foundation is planning to bring its popular Watchdog Training Program to Rochester for a session early this summer (date and location TBD). If you live in the area and are interested in more information, please e-mail FFMor call 612-354-2192. 

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