In 2011, about half of Minnesotans who rented qualified for the renters’ property tax refund (PTR). As noted previously, the renters’ (PTR) is the single most efficient program in state law for reducing the regressivity of Minnesota’s state and local tax system. However, conservatives cut $26 million from the program in the 2011 special session to protect the the state's richest from paying their fair share in taxes.
This week Minnesota 2020 Hindsight has featured a series of maps highlighting various aspects of Minnesota’s renters’ PTR program. Previous installations have featured maps showing the average renters’ PTR payment by county and the percentage of renters’ PTR recipients that are seniors or people with disabilities.
Today’s map shows the percentage of rental households in each Minnesota county that receive the renters’ PTR based on 2011 data from the Minnesota Department of Revenue and the U.S. Census Bureau as calculated by Minnesota 2020. The definition of “households” used in these two sources do not align perfectly and thus there is a degree of imprecision in the percentages displayed in this map. Nonetheless, the map should give a good approximation of the percentage of rental households receiving the renters’ PTR in each of the 87 Minnesota counties.
The percentage of renter households receiving the PTR ranges from 21.1 percent in Mahnomen County to 69.7 percent in Sherburne County. On a statewide basis, approximately one-half of all renter household qualify for the renters’ PTR in 2011.
Governor Dayton has demonstrated his support for fair taxation by including a funding increase for the renters' PTR in his revised budget. In addition, six different bills introduced during the 2013 legislative session would restore at least a portion of the renters’ PTR cut made during the 2011 session. These bills accomplish this either by increasing the percentage of rent attributable to property taxes, modifying the definition of income used to determine the PTR eligibility and payments, making changes to co-pay percentages, maximum PTR payments, or income thresholds, or by some combination of the above. These bills include:
• House File 2 (chief author: Davnie)
• House File 24 (chief author: Mullery)
• House File 126 (chief author: Faust)
• House File 333 (chief author: Davnie)
• House File 1647 (chief author: Loeffler)
• Senate File 140 (chief author: Dziedzic)
Legislators of all political persuasions support—at least in theory—reducing taxes on low income households. During the 2013 legislative session, members of the Minnesota House and Senate will have the opportunity to put their words into action by supporting any one of several bills that will replace a portion of previous cuts to the renters’ property tax refund.
In 2011, conservative legislators successfully advocated for a $26 million cut in the renters' property tax refund (PTR). This is yet another example of conservative policy shifting taxes to those least able to pay in an effort to protect the richest from paying their fair share. Anti-tax legislators should remember that when they cut funding for progressive tax relief programs like the renters' PTR, they're raising taxes on low-income Minnesotans, many of whom are elderly or people with disabilities.
A recently released Minnesota Budget Project report, “Who Receives the Renters’ Credit” (based on Minnesota Department of Revenue data), contains information on the impact of the renters' PTR for each Minnesota county. As the map below shows, in most counties over a third of taxpayers receiving the PTR are seniors or Minnesotans with disabilities.
The percentage of renters’ PTR recipients who are seniors or Minnesotans with disabilities range from a high of 65.3 percent in Traverse County to 22.9 percent in Dakota County. On a statewide basis, 29 percent of all renters’ PTR recipients are seniors or people with disabilities.
An earlier Minnesota 2020 map shows the average refund by county. These are modest refunds to help offset taxes on rental properties for low-income Minnesotans. This legislative session, bills are working their way through the legislature to payback a portion of the PTR cuts.
This post is the second in a three part series featuring maps that highlight various aspects of the renters’ property tax refund program. (read part 1) The last installment in this series will include a link to bills before the Minnesota legislature that will restore a portion of the funds cuts from the renters’ PTR in 2011.
Dollar for dollar, no single program does more to reduce the regressivity of Minnesota’s state and local tax system than the renters’ property tax refund (PTR). A previous Minnesota 2020 analysis demonstrated the effectiveness of the renters’ PTR in reducing the regressivity of rental property taxes. The renter’s PTR successfully cuts the degree of rental property taxes in half, to the point where it is more in line with other categories of property taxes.
The renters’ PTR accomplishes this by targeting property tax relief to low-income renters. To receive a PTR payment, the portion of a taxpayer’s rent attributable to property taxes must exceed a specified percentage of income. The PTR payment equals a specified percentage (referred to as the co-pay) of the rent attributable to property taxes in excess of the income thresholds, up to a specified maximum payment. The Minnesota Department of Revenue website contains a table showing the renters’ PTR income threshold, co-pays, and maximums for various income levels for refunds filed in 2013 and paid in fiscal year 2014.
The map below shows the average 2011 renters’ PTR payment in each of the 87 Minnesota counties. Data shown in this map is based on Minnesota Revenue Department data as featured in a recent Minnesota Budget Project report, “Who Receives the Renters’ Credit."
The largest renters’ PTR payments tend to be concentrated in or near the Twin Cities metropolitan area, where rental property taxes tend to be the highest. By definition, these payments are going to low-income renters who can use the dollars provided by this tax relief to pay for basic necessities that they could not otherwise afford.
This post contains the first of three maps that Minnesota 2020 Hindsight will feature this week highlighting various aspects of the renters’ property tax refund.
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As baby boomers age, Minnesota faces a massive shortage in workers qualified to assist them with daily living demands. In the next decade, Minnesota needs roughly 50,000 new home care workers, according to Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development projections.
These workers play a critical role in keeping aging Minnesotans and people with disabilities independent and living in their homes, carrying out a number of household and minor medical tasks. Some home care workers are family members who've had to leave their full-time jobs to care for aging loved ones or family members with disabilities.
Unfortunately, both family and non-family care workers aren't well compensated, with many struggling to stay above the poverty line, and relying on public assistance to cover health care needs. Recently introduced legislation would allow these workers to decide whether or not to join a union, which would help provide them with a fairer wage, benefits, and better medical training. Making the job more attractive and raising professional standards through organizing will help avoid a dangerous shortage of qualified workers to care for those with disabilities.
They guard and clean the buildings at many of Minnesota's most successful companies; yet, security officers and janitors have been forced into a protracted fight for fair wages and benefits.
"Despite months of bargaining, employers continue giving workers the runaround, bargaining in bad faith by refusing to show up to negotiations and offering proposals full of cuts. Security contractors have proposed moving hundreds of positions to part-time, eliminating all benefits and access to health care. Janitorial contractors are proposing cuts to more than 50 percent of janitors, with cuts as high as 40 percent for many members. For many workers, health coverage for their family would cost around $700 a month," according to a press release from SEIU Local 26, the union representing these workers. Wages near the poverty line means the average full-time janitor qualifies for public assistance and health benefits.
Recently, workers voted to authorize their bargaining committees to call for a strike if necessary, which would put 6,000 security officers in the metro area on the picket line.
Minnesota 2020 recently talked with some of the workers about what a fair contract means to them.
A once glowing St. Paul park might now be dark, but the success of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Holiday Lights continues to radiate. In its fifth year, the event (produced in partnership with King of Kings Lutheran Church of Woodbury) brought in record crowds and a new benchmark for donations collected for local charities.
More than 20,000 cars visited the Phalen Park display to witness one of the area’s biggest and brightest holiday lights displays, raising a record $80,000 for local charities, including Second Harvest Heartland, Union Gospel Mission, Saint Paul Parks Conservancy and UnderConstruction.
In a time when charitable contributions are really needed, Holiday Lights in the Park continues to surpass its previous year’s donations to local organizations. Workers and people giving back to their community have helped supplement a publicly funded social safety net decimated by state human service cuts. It should be remembered that charity works best when it's a supplement to a broader, properly funded set of social programs. However, conservatives seem to think charity is a suitable substitute for investing in robust human services and social welfare systems. It is not.
As we debate how to raise progressive revenue this legislative session, policymakers would be served well to think about the people hardest hit during the recession and those who weathered the downturn with little sacrifice, and then decide.
To end on an upbeat note, we'll take you back in November, when Minnesota 2020 ran a preview video of the light display being installed. Here's a look at the electricians in action.
About 17% of Minnesota households receive some form of Social Security. While the state averages under an 18% national average, there are large fluctuations throughout the state. The larger Twin Cities metro area, for example, is a concentrated area with the lowest percentage of Social Security assistance, while higher percentage counties are strewn about the state. Unsurprisingly, these numbers correlate with the age map from a previous week. While Social Security is provided for those with disabilities, a majority of the beneficiaries—around 70%—are the elderly, accounting for the substantial correlation with age.
Social Security, as we know it, could be in trouble. Unless Congress acts quickly, the Social Security Trust Fund is projected to run out by the mid-2030's. With increasing inflation, Social Security benefits are adjusted each year for cost-of-living. There have only been two years, both very recently, when there was not a raise – 2010 and 2011. Also with demographics changing the amount of workers per Social Security beneficiary will fall from 2.8 to 2.1 workers by 2033, according to the Social Security Administration. Congress is scrambling for a solution, suggesting the retirement age for full benefits be raised from 67* to 69.
While legislators are debating how to fix the shortfalls of Social Security and how to reduce our nations debt, it is important to remember the benefits that Social Security provides. 45% of Minnesota's 65+ would be living below the poverty line if it weren't for these added benefits. Additionally, about 95% of Minnesota's elderly population receives Social Security. Minnesota's elderly population is growing and is expected to jump from 12% in 2006 to 19% in 2030. While allowing the parole tax breaks to expire was unpopular, it was prudently fiscally to ensure Social Security's long-term solvency. And instead of putting more pressure on working people by raising the retirement age two years, maybe it's time we talk about raising the withholding significantly above the current salary cap of $110,000.
These numbers may seem rather scary. However, they are meant to inform, and demonstrate how important it is our leaders figure out a solution.
*The retirement age of 67 applies to workers born since 1960.
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What do you think is the second most common commuting option? Here's a hint: it's usually not this dry.
About 9% of Twin Cities metro area commuters carpool to work, just under the 10% national average.
Carpooling has major benefits. Environmental friendliness aside, carpooling can often times be much faster than driving solo, specifically in high traffic areas. Many major metro area thoroughfares have High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes – simply known as carpool lanes. The major lanes in the Twin Cities are on I-35 and 394. During regular traffic conditions these lanes do not provide much incentive, however, a Minnesota Department of Transportation study showed that during congestion HOV lanes move more people per lane that general lanes. Besides full lanes, the Twin Cities are also full of HOV ramp meter bypasses. Why wait for the light to turn green when you can zip past everyone on the bypass?
Besides saving time, carpooling can also save money on gas and parking. Minneapolis and St. Paul downtowns both offer several free parking lots for registered carpools. Our metro area is not uncommon in offering these incentives for carpoolers; numerous large cities throughout the United States provide added benefits to those who participate in rideshare programs.
According to the MNDOT report, there are several different types of ridesharing. The most popular is household carpooling – where family members travel together to similar destinations – however office carpooling and organized carpooling is becoming more and more popular. Metro Transit’s 160 free park-and-ride lots provide carpooling workers a place to connect prior to hitting the densest part of their commute.
The map above shows the percentage of commuters who carpool in each census tract. The downtown St. Paul as well as the southern and northern Minneapolis areas seem to have the largest percentage of commuters, perhaps because they are in close proximity to numerous large firms and companies. While the park and ride lots are pretty well distributed, there is no correlation between access to a park-and-ride lot and carpooling. This is perhaps due to the fact that a rideshare can originate from any location, not necessarily a park-and-ride.
While large scale public transit infrastructure cannot be implemented everywhere, carpooling doesn't necessarily require much new infrastructure; it just takes some logistics. So if you want to save time, money, and the environment, create a commuter account and let Metro Transit help you find matches.
Minnesota has two categories of cities; ones that have experienced a significant increase in cultural diversity, and ones that will soon experience this, according to the League of Minnesotan Cities. The Diversity Index—a 100-point scale—jumped from 22 in 2000 to 31 in 2011 in the state. As Minnesota communities become more multicultural, so do our schools.
The maps below show just how diverse Twin Cities area school districts are. While the most common primary language spoken at home is English, these maps show the top two foreign languages spoken throughout homes in each school district.
Unsurprisingly, the map shows a large Spanish speaking and Hmong population in the metro area. In 2010, Richfield and West St. Paul had some of the largest Hispanic populations. Almost 35% of Richfield students reported that they spoke Spanish at home, which is the most predominant foreign language in the metro area, especially in the south and southwest metro.
Hmong is the second most widely spoken foreign language. According to recent statistics, the Twin Cities metro boasts a population of about 64,000 Hmong residents - with 29,000 in St. Paul. The rest of the Hmong population has settled in northern suburbs as can be seen on the map. About 23% of St. Paul School District students reported Hmong as their primary home language in the 2011-12 school year.
More interestingly, some suburban districts are experiencing a growth in Somali and Russian populations. While Somali speaking students comprise relatively small numbers relative to Minneapolis, they still make up substantial populations in Edina and Eden Prairie at nearly 6%. In the past two decades, the US has admitted 84,000 Somali refugees, 40% of which live in Minnesota. This map also shows that Somali residents may be moving out of Minneapolis and into the burbs.
There is also a substantial Russian population in several west metro districts. Like Somali numbers, students speaking Russian at home do not rival Hmong or Spanish speakers, but Minnesota's Russian population tops 12,000 (mostly Russian Jews). Recently, "the Midwest's first charter school with an emphasis on the Russian language and culture" opened in Minnetonka. The school enrolls about 85 K-5 students.
The second map shows even more diversity, with languages such as Oromo (spoken in Ethiopia) and Cebuano (spoken in the Philippines). With the numbers indicating increasingly diverse student bodies, how could this impact education policies and curriculums? What do schools have to gain from a multicultural student body? Diversity presents Minnesota with challenges and opportunities, which we'll discuss in the next installment of this blog.
Human services spending is a loaded term, encompassing a multitude of programs and services. Minnesota’s Department of Human Services is comprised of five administrations: Health Care, Continuing Care, Children & Family Services, Chemical/Mental Health Services, and Financial Management & Operations. Recently released statistics from 2010 showed Minnesota ranked 15th nationally in spending per person. We also rank 7th in spending on Public Welfare.
Health and Human Services is always a hot topic at the capitol, and the budget for Health and Human Services (HHS) in the FY 2012-13 biennium is $26.1 billion. A huge portion of this budget is spent on health programs. Additionally, human services accounts for a huge portion of each county’s budget; in Hennepin County, Human Services accounts for 27% of the county budget.
Which Minnesota counties are spending more on these services and which counties are spending less might provide a better picture of economic and demographic conditions. The 2011 data in the map below, based on Minnesota Department of Human Services figures, shows large disparities
As the maps show, spending on these services throughout the state is drastically different. It ranges from under $1000 per capita to almost $5000. These numbers are affected by population characteristics of each county. Counties with a larger 65+ population – such as Traverse, Big Stone, and Norman – show higher per capita figures for both total human services and a higher percentage of expenditure on health programs. Conversely, counties with a younger overall population – such as Sherburne, Washington, and Carver – show less human services spending.
While per capita human services spending and costs as a percent of a budget tell us a lot about our commitment to people, they also have shortcomings because spending alone doesn't directly correlate to outcomes and quality services. Furthermore, previous cuts for preventative and more cost effective services, might actually produce higher long-term costs.
In previous legislative sessions, policy makers have struggled with balancing HHS's budget, oftentimes making significant cuts. As the financial outlook slowly imporves, lawmakers have been looking for ways to restore these cuts.
With the new legislative session starting and the need to close a billion dollar budget gap, lawmakers must find ways to strengthen health and human services and avoid deeper cuts.
*There are two consolidated boards, Southwest Health and Human Services, which includes Lincoln, Lyon, and Murray counties, and Faribault Martin Counties Human Services.
Posted in Health Care