WEEK OF FEBRUARY 11, 2002
Dear Citizen Spin:
When is Mike Hatch going to stop pretending he cares about anything other than himself and announce his inevitable run for governor?
R.D., St. Paul
This is a good question, if only because it allows your citizen to go off on one of his favorite rants: Citizen Spin thinks caring is much overrated in the world of politics.
If a politician gets teary when delivering a passionate plea on behalf of some constituency, should Citizen Spin really care about how genuine those tears are? Your citizen can be as cynical as they come, believing that all politicians are considering higher office. Still, it's a rare politician who doesn't believe to some degree in the policies he or she supports publicly. So maybe the occassional politician puts on an Oscar-winning performance in an effort to push an agenda. And maybe that agenda is designed to help that politician achieve higher office. But what Citizen Spin cares about is how that agenda relates to Citizen Spin's beliefs, and doesn't spend a lot of time trying to gauge the depth of a politician's sincerity, which is certainly a fruitless waste of time. CS
Dear Citizen Spin:
Will the NorthStar Corridor become a reality?
Casey Crookston, St. Cloud
Keeping in mind that Citizen Spin's ability to predict the future is only slightly better than that of the average Minnesota weathercaster, one could easily doubt it; at least not anytime soon and not on the scale currently envisioned. Citizen Spin, frankly, is befuddled that a state with so many intelligent people, is in the dark ages of mass transportation.
The state is utterly incapable of moving people via mass transit even in the metro, giving rise to doubts about its ability to move people from farther away.
Why is this? Because Minnesota the debate about mass transit always seems to become a rural vs. city debate. Yes, roads are important, but Citizen Spin wonders if part of the insistence on money for roads isn't an attempt at validation. See us! Notice us! Give us your blacktop! And the gas tax is constitutionally dedicated to roads - not mass transit - and any attempt to change it will reignite the rural-city debate.
There's also the matter of officials using mass transportation as a tool to control development. If you make it difficult for people to get to the city, the theory goes, development will be curtailed outside of it. Citizen Spin suggests the number of companies moving to the suburbs frames the fallacy of this argument. CS
Dear Citizen Spin:
If the Legislature and governor's office were to "postpone" all tax cuts from past legislative sessions that were not in effect on Dec. 31, 2001 for either 2 or 4 years, and also used the budget reserve, how much of the present budget deficit could be eliminated?
Robert Nelson, Cambridge
According to the Revenue Department, "Even though the changes to the property tax are effective for tax payable in 2002, it would be next to impossible to delay them now. The counties have incorporated the changes into their calculations, including the Truth
in Taxation statements sent to taxpayers last fall and the final property
tax statements which are completed or nearly so.
"Most of the reductions to state taxes took effect in 2001. However, several of the federal changes that were adopted are not effective until 2002 or later. These include increases to the working family credit and the dependent care credit, an increase in the contribution to IRAs, expansion of the deduction for student loan interst, larger contributions to education savings accounts, a new deduction for higher education expenses, and several changes to pension provisions. The estimates developed during the 2001 session for all the adopted federal changes were:
FY 2002 $16.0 million
FY 2003 $40.5 million
FY 2004 $44.8 million
FY 2005 $58.0 million"
Dear Citizen Spin:
There are two people who are running for State Auditor that, for the first time have CPA degrees, and one of them has worked both at the state auditor's office and is currently a two year three-term Minnesota congressman. What have you heard about this race and why are we even allowing people with non-accounting background to run? This takes a lot of knowledge with understanding the laws and accounting problems with in or in state government organizations, which the state auditor's office serves. Please look into this and do something about it. It is more important now than ever. Brian Sinykin, Richfield
Citizen Spin declines to do anything about the fact anybody, even non-accountants, can run for a particular office. I believe, in perhaps a naive, romantic sort of way, in government by the people, for the people. If a person makes his or her case to the people, it's up to the people to decide who is and isn't qualified. That's what a democracy is. One doesn't have to be an attorney to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, or a lawyer to make laws in the Legislature or Congress. Now, it's true, Minnesota almost elected a completely unqualified candidate to be attorney general a few years ago, largely on the strength of her Scandinavian last name, but the system won out in the end.
As to this particular race, Citizen Spin has not paid much attention to the auditor's race...yet. Citizen Spin recognizes that the true role of this position is to keep a person employed in a semi-public position until he or she runs for governor. Citizen Spin also doesn't care if the person is an accountant since we don't believe he/she is there at 5 p.m. wanting to audit just one more set of books before going home. We know the office is full of accountants to do things like that. Besides, I'm not convinced holding a CPA makes you a good auditor. I'm thinking Citizen Spin could've done a better job of auditing Enron's books. CS