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Cigarette Smuggling Soars in Minnesota After Big Tax Hike

Cigarette smuggling has soared since Minnesota imposed a $1.60 per pack excise tax increase in 2013, propelling the state to fifth highest for the crime in a new Tax Foundation and Mackinac Center for Public Policy report. The study shows smuggled smokes accounted for more than a third of cigarettes--36 percent--consumed in Minnesota in 2014, leading to an estimated $313 million loss in revenue due to tax evasion and avoidance by so-called border shopping. “Minnesota’s big leap in the ranks of smuggling states is no surprise,” said Michael LaFaive, Mackinac Center Fiscal Policy Director and co-author of the report. “As tax differentials...

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Twin Cities Couple Fights Mandatory City Property Inspections

Police can't search your property without a warrant, so why should housing inspectors be any different? That's the crux of a case going before the Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday, pitting the owner and tenants of a duplex in Golden Valley against city housing inspectors. American Experiment has joined the Cato Institute and other groups in supporting the Institute for Justice in challenging the Twin Cities suburb's ordinance requiring the inspection of every rental property. Several other Minnesota cities have similar policies requiring rental property inspections without cause or signs of housing code violations. Golden Valley's rental ordinance gives housing inspectors access...

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Sagging Liquor Profits Force Edina Munis to Compete

Edina's municipal liquor stores used to rake in millions in profits from the city's monopoly on the booze business for years, $1.5 million as recently as 2012. But profits have plummeted ever since competition came to town in the form of a Total Wine mega store that opened in the next door suburb of Bloomington, declining to $650,000 last year. Instead of privatizing the city's liquor stores or cutting city services, Edina city councilors penalized residents by increasing property taxes 7 percent in 2016 to offset the continuing loss of sales. After another  year of stagnant profits, however, City Hall may be...

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Contractors Pressed to Shop Subcontractor Bids as MnDOT Misses Minority Goal Again

A new MnDOT report shows the agency has again failed to reach its goal for minority and women-owned business participation on transportation projects for at least the tenth year in a row. This despite spending an estimated $10 million of taxpayer funds on training and recruitment to pave the way for the federally mandated Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program since 2007. The DBE program requires states to set goals for companies “owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” for federally-funded MnDOT projects. But the latest numbers indicate DBE-qualified firms landed 8.5 percent of federally funded road construction contracts statewide in fiscal year...

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Why Can’t Young People Afford Houses?

Today's Minneapolis Star Tribune bemoans the lack of affordable housing for young people in the Twin Cities: "Twin Cities real estate pinchpoint: Few low-priced homes are being built." Builders are putting up more houses than they have in a decade, but not the kind in most demand. About 16 percent of the new houses in the Twin Cities metro this fall were priced less than $250,000, says a new report by Metrostudy, a national housing research firm. The rest were out of reach for the first-time buyers who are expected to drive the housing market in the coming year. A decade ago,...

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