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 Response Page - John James  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
John James Interview of


Responses:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by James.  Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Broaden Base (6.7 average response) Minnesota should broaden the list of purchases that are subject to the state sales tax.

2. Reduce Rate (5.9 average response) As coverage is broadened, the state sales tax rate should be reduced.

3. Local government aids (6.0 average response) Local government aids should be phased out and local governments given more local authority to finance local services directly.

 4. Corporate tax (5.8 average response) Minnesota's corporate income tax should be replaced by a business activities tax that applies to both state and non-state businesses.

Response Distribution:

Disagree Strongly

Disagree Moderately


Agree Moderately

Agree Strongly

Total Responses

1. Broaden Base







2. Reduce Rate







3. Local government aids







4. Corporate tax








Individual Responses:

Ken Smart  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

1.  Broaden base.  Given revenue needs, it makes sense to broaden the sales tax as much as possible to most fairly distribute the burden.

2.  Reduce rate.  The goal here should be fairness and not an overall increase in revenues to government units.

3.  Local government aids.  LGA is more of a mechanism for social engineering and doling out political favors than it is for good public policy.  LGA is abused in this state.

4.  Corporate tax.  Again - this more fairly distributes the tax burden and levels the competitive playing field.

Dave Broden  (10)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (5)

1.  Broaden base.  Sales tax is the only way to expand the tax base and establish a stable income flow for the state.

2.  Reduce rate.  This is not obvious but is a reasonable goal to balance the impact on people of various income levels, etc.

3.  Local government aids.  The concept of LGA has been a positive factor (for) the Minnesota quality of life and public safety and health. LGA changes must be considerate of how it will impact the entire state and must avoid forming wide variations in quality across the state.  A balance of what the state LGA will provide and local tax options that do not promote competition between cities or areas is worth a strong debate to see what can work.

4.  Corporate tax.  The ideas sound good, but I have not seen any facts regarding how this would operate and then impact on jobs and companies in Minnesota, etc. Rigorous dialogue on the subject can offer some information and added understanding.

Peter Hennessey  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (0)

1.  Broaden base.  You'll have trouble convincing people to include food and health care.

2.  Reduce rate.  Good luck with that too. You'll reduce the rate when you can convince the politicians to spend less.

3.  Local government aids.  Push the responsibility and the authority as far down the "food chain" as possible. Let each locality determine their own needs and the means of fulfilling them.   However, I have a problem with encouraging the reliance on real estate taxes. What is the difference between a Mafia protection racketeer and your local government telling you to pay up or they'll take your house away? Either way, you are facing extortion at the point of a gun. Either way, your ability or willingness to pay is irrelevant. Either way, the services you are forced to pay for are of dubious value. As in all monopoly situations, you are given no choice of services, service providers, and the level or quality of service you prefer. For an alternative suggestion, see next item.

4.  Corporate tax.  What is a taxable "business activity"? How does "business activity" differ from net profit, or sales? But it's irrelevant. Businesses do not pay taxes. They just pass (them) along with all of the other costs of doing business. It is stupid to call for businesses to "pay their fair share." What does that mean? Plus, the employees and shareholders already pay taxes on "their fair share" of the income generated by the business. No matter how you slice it, no matter what accounting games you play, the bottom line is that all the taxes paid by the business and its employees comes from only one source: the income generated by that business. So you have a choice; either you tax the business on its full profit, before paying their employees and shareholders, or you tax the employees and shareholders on the income they get from the business -- but not both. Doing anything else amounts to double taxation. The same money is taxed yet again when you slap a sales tax on items that the employees and shareholders buy for their own consumption. But of course the more complicated you make the system, the more bookkeepers, accountants, lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and bureaucrats you need. Why not simplify the system and do away with all this expensive overhead, do away with all forms of taxes except the retail sales tax? No forms to fill out, no records to keep (unless you want to), no returns to file, and best of all, you pay the tax only when you have the money to spend.

Grant Abbott  (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)

1.  Broaden base.  I agree we need more emphasis on consumption taxes, but I am very wary of taxing health care services and education. However, I am willing to see the tax on almost everything else, so long as there is equity. Since sales taxes are regressive, those who are poorer could end up paying a higher percentage of their income. We would need some kind of system to make sure this doesn't happen.

2.  Reduce rate.  This will make the expansion of the sales tax more tolerable, and it would lay the foundation for the possibility of a value-added tax system in the future.

3.  Local government aids.  I'm neutral until I can be assured that the unintended consequences of such a move causing the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. Such a move could cause people to leave poorer communities in search of richer communities with lower property tax rates.

4.  Corporate tax.  Businesses and corporations need services just as other citizens need services. They should participate in paying for those services. If we remove all taxes from businesses and corporations, then citizens, in the hopes of keeping their jobs, are subsidizing potential profits that may not be invested in Minnesota. That sounds like the kind of blackmail the owners of sports franchises are asking from the state and local communities.

Dennis Johnson  (0)  (5)  (2.5)  (2.5)

Another committed progressive "consultant" who purports to know how to raise revenue by raising taxes.    Kindergarten economics:  How do you raise revenues without raising taxes? Through growth.  How do you grow jobs?  By attracting more businesses to Minnesota, bringing jobs and taxpayers.  How do you attract businesses?  With lower taxes and fewer limiting regulations.  Who pays business taxes? Repeat 3 times: The Consumer, The Consumer, The Consumer.  How do you increase the population of unemployed and underemployed, who pay little in taxes?  Increase benefits.  How do you limit the increase in state budgets and growth of state government? Nobody knows since it has never yet been done, except in campaign speeches.  Watch Gov. Christie in New Jersey - at least he is trying!

Jack Evert  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)

1.  Broaden base.  By broadening the base and lowering the rate, the most obvious thing that one sees is lower: the rate.  I think that would help make MN more competitive.

2.  Reduce rate.  Since we need more revenue, it would seem a logical time to increase such if the coverage were broadened.

3.  Local government aids.  I guess I see it as an improvement whenever spending and taxing decisions are moved closer to voters.  But I also see the need for the state to manage gross inequities where they exist.  So in other words, I don't know!

Carol Becker  (10)  (10)  (0)  (5)

1.  Broaden base.  The tax system we have today overtaxes goods and under-taxes services and should be rebalanced as our purchases have changed.

3.  Local government aids.  At least for Minneapolis, which is asked to bear the cost of the majority of the region's poor, (which has) a huge concentration of jobs, the major business marketing venue in the state (the Convention Center) and the major entertainment venues in the state, it seems appropriate that the state help out with some of these costs.

Rick Krueger  (10)  (7.5)  (0)  (7.5)

3.  Local government aids.  This would severely penalize our major core cities and even more so, small rural cities.  I used to reside in Staples where the property tax base is so low that the LGA accounted for over 50% of the city budget.  Property tax rates are high in the cities I mentioned, and this proposal would absolutely crush cities such as Staples.

Mary Rossing  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)

2.  Reduce rate.  Reduced for business, not for homestead.

3.  Local government aids.  Local governments need more local authority not just for revenue but also need to have mandates reduced.  If state aid goes away so must the insane amount unfunded mandates.

Anonymous  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)

1.  Broaden base.  Broadening the sales tax and reducing the rate may be more palatable to citizens. This may be the only way to get the structure in place. But it sounds like raising the rate would be inevitable.

2.  Reduce rate.  Same as above.

3.  Local government aids.  Need to be careful here. Property owners who cannot vote locally (seasonals, some businesses, some rental property owners, etc.) have no say and could be taken advantage of.

Robert Peterson  (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (5)

4.  Corporate tax.  What about the 2% healthcare tax? Millions have been used to balance budget. What is your opinion?

David Dillon  (10)  (0)  (10)  (10)

Joe Nathan  (0)  (2.5)  (5)  (7.5)

1.  Broaden base.  James makes clear he is going to spend less in retirement, like lots of others.  What about the low/moderate income people who are not ready to retire but need to buy clothing?  Seems like a tax on clothing is regressive.  Perhaps increase the license fees on automobiles costing more than $25,000.  Just because Gov Ventura had a Porsche and did not like paying higher license fees, we've been stuck with a pretty flat license fee system for years.  We could increase taxes on luxury items.

2.  Reduce rate.  Since I don't agree on agree on broadening sales taxes to clothing, I don't agree with this.

 Bob White  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

Wayne Jennings  (8)  (4)  (8)  (5)

Refreshing to hear new approaches.

Polly Bergerson  (2.5)  (0)  (5)  (5)

1.  Broaden base.  As pointed out, seniors will not be affected by this type of change because they spend less. The emphasis for change should not be made based on seniors or baby boomers but on the impact to everyone.   I am mostly in favor of finding our why we need more revenue. I would like the state to truly look at expenses, size of legislature, (at whether) programming and aid provided (is) based on what has been done in the past, or we have we always done it this way? How do we tighten our belts in government just as we are required to tighten our belts as individuals?

3.  Local government aids.  Would this mean a direct reduction on state income tax? Because this will just move the tax base to the local entity.

Bruce A. Lundeen  (2.5)  (0)  (5)  (5)

2.  Reduce rate.  Coverage should not be expanded, except maybe in the case of new and expensive clothing, but not second-hand clothing.

 W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (0)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)

1.  Broaden base.  No, this is just another attack on the working poor by another elitist white-collar progressive socialist.

2.  Reduce rate.  While I strongly support reducing the sales tax, I oppose any broadening of the base. Instead decriminalize and regulate marijuana, which will bring in more money and reduce capital expenditures far more than any adjustment of sales tax.

3.  Local government aids.  LGA has always been about the manipulation of local governments by the state. It is time for the state to return all stolen local control, which includes school districts. No more carrot-and-stick control model.

4.  Corporate tax.  The proof is in the pudding and the pudding isn't mixed yet.

Edward Nowak  (0)  (0)  (10)  (0)

1.  Broaden base.  Cut spending, reduce the size of government, cut the (nonsense).

2.  Reduce rate.  Income tax was supposed to be temporary!

4.  Corporate tax.  No corporate taxes.  Everyone should pay tax, even the low wage earners.  To quote the worst president since Jimmy Carter, "you need skin in the game.

Joseph Mansky  (10)  (10)  (5)  (5)

Chuck Lutz  (10)  (2)  (5)  (10)

William Kuisle  (0)  (5)  (7)  (5)

1. Broaden base.  Bait and switch. You are taking valuable revenue from the private sector. 

2. Reduce rate.  Any reduction will be temporary until the next need for revenue.  

4. Corporate tax. Will never get the authority to tax non-state businesses. Thus it puts our state businesses at a huge disadvantage.

Ray Ayotte  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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