Letters to the editor for Jan. 17, 2014

Budget surplus

To the Editor:

Earlier this month, we learned that Minnesota is projected to have about a billion dollar budget surplus. In other words, Minnesota is projected to collect about $1 billion more in taxes than planned under the budget that began July 1.

This is without a doubt good news for our state. It gives us flexibility to look at repealing some of the damaging taxes that were passed last session, and bolster our state’s rainy-day funds and budget reserves.

But with all the victory laps and back patting we’ve seen by my colleagues across the aisle, I think we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves: is $1 billion in additional tax revenue, generated by an improving economy, really the result of a budget that started just a few months ago?

I don’t think so. We need to take a wait-and-see approach, and judge this budget over the long term.

The facts are simple: businesses are seeing higher taxes under this budget. Unprecedented new taxes on warehousing, machinery repair and other business-to-business taxes mean less money to pay existing employees and reduced opportunities to create additional jobs.

According to the annual Minnesota Business Barometer Survey taken in July and August by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, 71 percent of businesses polled said the recently-passed tax bill will have a somewhat or very significant impact on their operations. That matters for jobs, and matters for long-term revenue growth.

Minnesota’s economy is on the upswing, but factors like this, and the decreasing confidence of business owners in Minnesota’s business climate could mean a slowdown or stall for our economy.

Each and every day Minnesota businesses compete with companies across our borders in neighboring states and around the world. Our friends and neighbors rely on these jobs to support their families.

We need to take steps to put their minds at ease, and make sure business owners, as well as the employees of these businesses don’t have to worry whether or not they’ll have a job due to reduced revenue due to higher tax expenditures.

We need to make it easier for our friends and neighbors who are unemployed to find a good-paying job by giving businesses confidence to expand, knowing they won’t be slapped with a higher tax bill at the end of the year.

We know it works. Minnesota held the line on taxes during the last budget and Minnesota’s unemployment rate dropped, the economy improved, and then we took in billions of dollars in additional revenue.

That’s why I hope to see some of the damaging tax increases repealed next session as we look at ways to keep Minnesota’s economy moving.

Rep. Mark Uglem,
Champlin/Coon Rapids

Martin Luther King Jr. legacy

To the Editor:

Martin Luther King Jr. was an American icon whose legacy many of us choose to honor by volunteering in our communities.

King was a man who taught the world that passivity does not make a better community – active, concerned citizens are the ones that enact change.

As a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit, Anoka Post 102, I know, as King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Times may be hard and the economy may be rough, but we can make our communities better places to live in King’s honor.

I invite you, along with members of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit, Anoka 102, to join us in the Anoka community and volunteer at least an hour of your time either on Jan. 20, the National MLK Day of Service, or any time of this week.

Do it in honor of yourself, our community and Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

American Legion Auxiliary members have dedicated themselves for nearly a century to meeting the needs of our nation’s veterans, military and their families both here and abroad. They volunteer millions of hours yearly, with a value of nearly $2 billion.

As part of the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, auxiliary volunteers across the country also step up to honor veterans and military through annual scholarships and with ALA Girls State programs, teaching high school juniors to be leaders grounded in patriotism and Americanism.

To learn more about the auxiliary’s mission or to volunteer, donate or join, visit www.ALAforVeterans.org.

Darlene Thell,
Past president and public relations chairperson, Anoka Post 102 American Legion Auxiliary

Book rating system need

To the Editor:

In response to Julie Blaha’s Dec. 6 letter to the editor, Ms. Blaha applauded the media specialists within District 11 for selecting the “Eleanor and Park” book which was the only book offered for the optional summer reading program for high school students ages 14 to 17.

It is my understanding the students who signed up for the summer reading program were unaware what book had been chosen by the media specialists.

As a parent in the district, I would like to challenge the school district, Ms. Blaha and the media specialists to take on a leadership role by creating a book rating system, like the film and gaming industry, that would rate the books being promoted to the students and communicate to the parents, the book rating along with the established guidelines for each rating.

Parents were never involved in the decision making process of selecting the book promoted by the school district, nor were the parents informed about the book and the adult themes and harsh language contained within the book. That is the real issue.

According to the MPAA Classification & Rating Rules (4) (Effective Jan. 1, 2010) “R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian”.

“Eleanor and Park” would easily fit within the “R” rated guidelines.

If the school district were to have a book rating system with established written guidelines similar to the film and gaming industry and a book comes along that is rated R, then parents would be notified of the book’s rating and proceed with however they feel appropriate for their child regarding that book’s content.

To have Ms. Blaha suggest that we should not rate a book by just the number of profane words used within the book when the film industry guidelines do so, is just plain irresponsible.

What Ms. Blaha suggests here is the equivalent of having school staff take your 14-year-old child to an “R” rated movie without first obtaining the parent’s consent. Parents in this situation would be outraged. Just because the “R” material is in a book should not call for different treatment.

Let’s not forget, parents are the ones responsible for raising our children. What the media specialist, Ms. Blaha and the school district view as normal and try to give the impression that it is common or is important for “every teen” is simply not their decision to make.

I would hope that using profanity in the halls within the schools and within a majority of homes is not as common as they would like you to believe. Domestic violence is also a very sensitive topic that will surface when reading the book.

Not being informed that “Eleanor and Park” contained adult situations interferes with a parent’s moral upbringing of their children. Ms. Blaha, the media specialists and any other district staff member do not have the right to undermine a parent’s moral upbringing of their children.

Developing a rating system and establishing written guidelines should be applied to books so we, as parents, are aware of the content in the book. Communicating to parents using a rating system is something I as a parent can support

Jim Thompson
Andover

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