Report: MN rental affordability worst in the Midwest

Finding a decent, affordable place to live in Minnesota isn’t getting any easier, according to a new national study, showing that Minnesota falls dead last out of a dozen Midwestern states in rental affordability. The report says Minnesota rents have increased 32 percent in the last decade, and as much as 56 percent in some rural counties. Leigh Rosenberg, research and outreach manager with the Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP), says the gap between what a wage earner should be making in order to afford rental housing, and the reality of what such a person actually earns, is growing. “A family would either have to have 2.2 minimum-wage earners working full-time, or one person at the minimum wage would have to work 87 hours per week, to be able to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment here in our state.” According to MHP, to be able to afford rent and utilities for a safe, modest two-bedroom apartment in the private housing market, a Minnesota worker must earn almost $16 per hour, 40 hours a week, year-round. Continue Reading

Report: Slow internet access can stifle MN rural economies, Minnesota ranked 32nd for internet speeds

Communities without high-speed Internet access will likely be economically crippled, losing out on opportunities available to those with high-speed connections. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Center for Rural Strategies about broadband access in rural America. In Minnesota, 54 percent of communities have broadband access at speeds rated below the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) minimum standard of 4 megabits per second, according to the group SpeedMatters.org. Report author Dr. Sharon Strover explains that such routine functions as ordering supplies can put a business with narrow Internet bandwidth behind the eight ball. “If you’ve ever tried to pull up a graphic image on a dial-up connection, you are waiting for a really long time. Continue Reading

Mission proved “possible” for MN March campaign

Minnesota’s March Campaign organizers denied it was a “Mission Impossible” this year, when they set out to match last year’s ambitious goal of collecting 12 million pounds-and-dollars of food. While early reports from the state’s food shelves had them a little worried, the final numbers have been tallied. Sue Kainz, March Campaign coordinator for Minnesota FoodShare, has an update. “Our final total was 12,048,127 pounds-and-dollars, and we’re very pleased with that. It’s about 18,000 over the 2010 campaign. Continue Reading

Federal legislation ‘COOL’ news for MN dairy farmers

New federal legislation proposed by Minnesota Sen. Al Franken aims to level the playing field for dairy farmers and help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions. The bill, S.831, extends mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) to dairy products. That law went into effect last year, requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce COOL labeling on meats, produce and nuts. Doug Peterson, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, says Franken’s bill is great news for Minnesota dairy farmers and consumers. Despite the fact that the nation consumes more dairy products than it produces, he says dairy farmers have suffered huge losses over the past decade from competing with foreign products. Continue Reading

Faith leaders: state budget about human dignity, not just dollars and cents

With today’s tax deadline, faith leaders across Minnesota are renewing the call on state lawmakers to take a balanced approach to solving the state’s budget deficit. They say such an approach must include raising revenue fairly through some increased taxes. Until now, the cuts-only approach has fallen largely along party lines, and Lutheran Bishop Peter Rogness, spokesman for the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, says it’s time to set aside partisan politics, for the sake of Minnesota’s most vulnerable. “There are good people in both parties that I think have a desire to step apart from the harsh partisan positioning, and simply find policies that work. I think all of us in the religious community say that’s the way any group of people are supposed to live together: to set aside individual positions and individual self-interests and find the common good.” Continue Reading

Townships to state: Don’t take away our local control

Two words that developers dislike: local control. Legislation making its way through the Minnesota House and Senate aims to weaken the power of local governments to enact interim ordinances, which allow townships and counties to quickly put a temporary freeze on major development. Proponents of the bills say interim ordinances delay developments unnecessarily. But local officials say this power is essential when the community is faced with a major proposal, like a big-box store or large factory farm, often from an out-of-state corporation. Alan Perish, a retired dairy farmer, is a Hartford township officer and spokesman for the Land Stewardship Project, and is worried. Continue Reading

Mayors to state lawmakers: We don’t want the Twin Cities to become Detroit

Some state and local lawmakers from suburbs that don’t receive LGA still oppose eliminating funding to the core cities. Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire is also president of Metro Cities. As a representative of Metro Cities, he testified against elimination of LGA for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. While he’s not opposed to reforming LGA, or even seeing some level of cuts, he sees the elimination of funding to the core cities as a short-sighted decision that will have dire consequences for the region.As the budget battle in the legislature continues, what do the options mean for Minnesota cities? Continue Reading

Looking for the money: What about local sales taxes?

One of the rationales for eliminating LGA from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth is that they each have a local option sales tax.  But on closer inspection, Duluth is the only city where revenue raised by the local sales tax option can be used entirely at the city council’s discretion.  Historically, state lawmakers have resisted allowing cities to have a local sales tax option, unless it goes towards funding designated capital projects like civic centers, airports and riverfront developments.As the budget battle in the legislature continues, what do the options mean for Minnesota cities? Four angles on the debate: • Cut LGA? Fighting words for mayors across Minnesota • What “no new taxes” means for local property owners• Looking for the money: What about local sales taxes? • Mayors to state lawmakers: We don’t want the Twin Cities to become Detroit However, in the face of continual LGA cuts, some Minnesota cities are pushing back against the state lawmakers resistance in allowing a local sales tax option. Continue Reading

What “no new taxes” means for local property owners

The party line argument over “no new taxes” is all a matter of perspective. “I think what the [House Republican] bill was able to do is balance the budget without raising taxes,” said Rep.  Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, during the debate on the House floor. “I think as a result of this, we’re able to say to people concerned about our economy, our business growth, our job growth, that we are becoming a more economically competitive state.”As the budget battle in the legislature continues, what do the options mean for Minnesota cities? Four angles on the debate:• Cut LGA? Fighting words for mayors across Minnesota • What “no new taxes” means for local property owners• Looking for the money: What about local sales taxes? Continue Reading