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Sunday, August 31, 2014


A CULTURAL DISASTER -- a leading purveyor of “Ole and Lena” jokes has died. Larry Ritzo (60) ran the Valley News and Views, a weekly newspaper in Drayton. Ole and Lena jokes are not mean-spirited, although they crudely stereotype Norwegian-Americans. If you are one of the very few who hasn’t heard an Ole and Lena joke, here is a dazzling example: Lena says to Ole "I found dis pen, is it yours?" Ole replies - "Don't know, give it here." He then tries it and says "Yes it is." Lena asks "How do you know?" Ole replies, "Dat's my handwriting.”

DOUG BURGUM may be ND’s most admired entrepreneur -- he was instrumental in developing Great Plains Software which was acquired by Microsoft. He has since been a leader in the revitalization of downtown Fargo. Burgum recently addressed a technology conference in Fargo and urged ND to eliminate income taxes in order to attract businesses and workers. He is one of many urging repeal of various ND taxes because of the state’s current fiscal health.

WATCH OUT! Recommendations such as Burgum’s are well-intended, but could be long-run traps if implemented, because they wreck the diversity of the tax base. State income taxes are an efficient revenue system because they piggyback a federal tax system. It might be more sensible to moderate rates, but keep different streams of tax revenue. A special consideration: a significant portion of ND oil royalties and property rentals are paid to nonresidents -- those people would be off the hook if income taxes were entirely eliminated.

WHY IS HE DOING THIS? Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has stuck his nose into the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion plan. He threatens to delay the project while Minnesota conducts an environmental review. Dayton asserted that “a major feature of the Project’s design appears to be flooding of Minnesota (and North Dakota) farmland in order to assure North Dakota developers that their investments will be safeguarded.” Representatives of the Diversion Authority are perplexed, they recently met with Minnesota DNR officials who did not voice Dayton’s concerns. The impact of the diversion is thought to fall largely in ND (90%).

POWER FOR MINNESOTA Jamestown has taken one more step on the road to becoming an industrial community. Great River Energy’s Spiritwood Station generating plant began full-time operations with 24 employees. The first new coal plant in ND in over 30 years will produce power for the electrical grid, but will also produce industrial steam for the adjacent Cargill Malt plant and an ethanol plant under construction. Spiritwood burns about 17 rail cars of DryFined coal a day, coal dried and refined at GRE’s Coal Creek Station in Underwood to improve energy efficiency. GRE is an electric power cooperative based in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

YOU WILL HATE TO HEAR THIS, but Jamestown may be turning its back on buffalo. Jamestown is rebranding (“Discover Jamestown”) and the tourism foundation has dropped “Buffalo” from its name. A board members said, “When people come to Jamestown, I almost cringe because somebody makes a comment about the (World’s Largest) Buffalo (statute) in a joking manner.”

THEY WANT TO SHARE When a ND Indian reservation elects a new chairman the candidates are numerous. A lot is at stake -- jobs for relatives and cronies, access to tribal checkbooks, and so on. The Three Affiliated Tribes are selecting a new chairman and, predictably, there were many candidates. Half have been determined to be ineligible because of matters such as felony convictions and an insufficient fraction of tribal blood. The disqualified candidates claim this is merely an effort by past and current members of a corrupt business council to keep control of tribal leadership.

TEACHERS NEED HOUSES “The area is portrayed as ‘come and get rich here’ and ‘glorified more than it is.’” -- Erica Turnquist, a first-grade teacher in Alexander, an oil field town where campers dot the landscape. Alexander is about 20 miles south of Williston and its population swelled from about 200 in 2010 to over 1,100 -- school enrollment has risen along with the population. Alexander illustrates how infrastructure problems develop rapidly in Oil Patch towns. Housing for teachers is a major challenge -- the Alexander School District rents apartments and houses to teachers at subsidized rates. Nearby Williston has even a larger challenge. The Williston School District has enrolled 3,500 students, an increase of 800 students over last year.

FORTUNES REVERSED for ND’s 2014 Teacher of the Year. Aaron Knodel (35), an English teacher at W. Fargo High School, has been charged with five felony counts for sexual contact with a female student in 2003. Knodel was suspended without pay.

EDSELS FOREVER LeRoy Walker (73) has 2,600 old vehicles neatly lined up in the hills near Beulah. Lauren Donovan of the Bismarck Tribune reports LeRoy has made a deal -- a salvage company from Minot will crush and remove 2,300 vehicles leaving a nice check for his retirement fund. But LeRoy will remain the “Edsel King.” He loves Edsels and his collection of 200 is the largest in the world.

DAKTOIDS: That’s really mean -- Mall of America is targeting social media ads at oil workers in ND . . . Readers of the Williston Herald were asked “Who is most to blame for the increase in ‘big city’ crimes in Williston?” Readers apparently didn’t blame government or law enforcement, 87 percent attributed the rise to increased population . . . A Gallup article titled “North Dakota: Legendary Among States” was accompanied by the release of a poll showing ND residents to be the most highly satisfied in the nation.



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“Piggyback” is more approriate that the writer likely intended. As I pointed out in my three part series on taxes on this site, the US has agreements with many many countries to prevent “double taxation” of both personal income and corporate profit taxes. So if foreigners are good enough not to tax twice on the same base why is it fine for states to tax income alerady taxed by the feds?

Yes, “piggyback” is appropriate because states are “pigs” when it comes to double taxing income.

Instead of a diversified list of taxes, how about two major taxes that are the fairest of all, the sales tax and the natural resource taxes (oil, gas, coal, etc). Where we need “diversification” is in the money left in the pockets of those who made it in the first place. When we seriously cut or eliminate taxes like the income and property tax, which revenues have grown considerably beyond that intended by those who “invented” them, we allow truely fair economic development to occur… by the folks that earned the money in the first place, not just a bunch of legislator cronies that hand a portion back to the “professional politicians” as campaign contributions. By the way, well over two-thirds of politicians are selfish for themselves and their “friends”, leaving us with the task of encouraging more selfless successful people to enter politics. And “selfless” means an aversion to robbing Peter to benefit Paul.

Lynn Bergman on September 7, 2014 at 07:48 pm
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