Short takes

Public sector compensation in Minnesota: The Pioneer Press has updated their database of Minnesota public employee salaries with 2013 compensation data for State of Minnesota and MnSCU employees. The database also includes data for other metro-area public agencies through 2012.

Alliance for a Redder Minnesota?: The liberal attack dogs at Alliance for a Better Minnesota praised the "middle class majorities" in the legislature this week for helping to reduce poverty in Minnesota. The Alliance was citing newly released data from the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey showing Minnesota was one of just two states to reduce poverty. The problem? The ACS data is from 2011 and 2012, when conservative majorities controlled the legislature. Oops.

How Detroit went broke: The Detroit Free Press published a must-read analysis of the Motor City's descent into bankruptcy, detailing a half-century of municipal malfeasance in which "elected officials and others charged with managing its finances repeatedly failed — or refused — to make the tough economic and political decisions that might have saved the city from financial ruin." Among the factors contributing to the city's decline: oppressive property taxes, a shrinking tax base, skyrocketing employee benefits, and a recent borrowing binge.

What Governor Dayton can learn from Massachusetts: Governor Dayton's not the only state executive to express buyers' remorse for his own flawed tax policy. According to Slashdot: "The 6.25 percent sales tax on 'computer system design services' was proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick in January, but got little notice before it was slipped in mid-July into a $500 million supplementary funding bill." It seems that Minnesota and Massachusetts lawmakers share an affinity for surreptitious tax hikes that stifle growth and innovation. Both governors responded to the public outcry that followed by backpedaling their support for business taxes they signed into law. But it appears that Patrick is offering more than rhetoric. Patrick recently told the Boston Globe: "It's time for it to go. I'm persuaded that the impact to our reputation is too problematic." Repeal of the tax is expected within weeks.

Pension fun fact: The Duluth teachers' pension fund has voted to seek a merger into the statewide Teachers' Retirement Association (TRA), while their counterparts in the St. Paul district have decided for the time being to remain independent. In reality, neither of the severely underfunded local pension funds is truly independent since state taxpayers are already bailing them out to the tune of $13 million a year. That amount may end up looking like pocket change, however, compared to the bailout a merger would likely entail. According to the Pioneer Press: "Preliminary estimates show it would require about $360 million to boost Duluth and St. Paul's funded ratios -- the percentage of assets available to cover liabilities -- from their current 63 percent to at least match TRA's 74 percent."

Smokers finding ways around cigarette tax hike: The recent cigarette tax hike of $1.60 has led many smokers to change their behavior. Just not in the way advocates for the tax intended. According to the Star Tribune: "Minnesota smokers have found a way to beat the state’s new cigarette tax. They're rolling their own. Tobacco sales have slumped since the nation’s sixth-highest cigarette tax raised the price of a pack of cigarettes in Minnesota by $1.60 in July. But Twin Cities tobacco-shop owners say many customers are buying tobacco by the pouch — purchasing enough to roll at least two cartons’ worth of cigarettes for a fraction of the price."

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