Where are the 4th bracketeers?

Gov. Mark Dayton’s plan to generate $1.1 billion in new taxes from the state’s highest earners the next two years is controversial. Politically, though, it ought to be a pretty easy vote for most of the state’s lawmakers.

More than 70 percent of those who would pay the higher income tax are concentrated in the Twin Cities metropolitan area — overwhelmingly in Hennepin County where most state lawmakers are, like the governor, DFLers.

The map below shows just how concentrated. Mouse over the dots and you’ll get the information for that county.

We took county by county data from the governor’s proposal and mapped it. These are the returns of people with taxable income above $250,000 for those married and filing jointly, $200,000 for head of household and $150,000 for a single taxpayer.

Six counties — Cook, Kanabec, Lake of the Woods, Lincoln, Mahnomen and Red Lake — counted 20 or fewer potential fourth bracketeers. The Revenue Department would not provide an exact count for those counties, so they don’t show up on the map.

The data aren’t perfect. They show 2010 figures with 41,612 returns from full-year taxpaying residents. Current estimates put the total number of prospective fourth bracket returns at 53,600, thanks mainly to growth in incomes between 2010 and 2013.

Revenue Department researchers, though, say the distribution in the 2010 county data is proportional to the geography of those who would be affected now.

Looking at the map, you’d be hard pressed to find any politician who’d pay much of a political price for supporting the fourth bracket.

While many Republicans might oppose the new tax tier for philosophical reason, they wouldn’t suffer much backlash from the fourth bracket voting block.

Poll numbers back that up. A recent KSTP / SurveyUSA poll found 65 percent of Minnesotans back Dayton’s proposal for more taxes on the top 2 percent; 30 percent oppose it.

Here’s one more way to look at the lopsided spread. In the map below, the reds denote counties with fewer than 300 tax returns that would fall in the new bracket. Yellow is for counties with 300 to 1,000 potentially affected while the green means more than 1,000 fourth bracketeers.

Again, if you’re a state lawmaker, you might have serious philosophical and economic concerns about seeking another $1 billion every two years from the state’s top 2 percent. Geographically, though, most lawmakers shouldn’t have to think twice.

  • Erik

    Can you rescale the maps to show the share of the county’s population rather than the total number of 4th bracket members? Most of the counties outside the metro and not including Stearns, Olmsted and St. Louis are so much smaller that even a relatively high number of 4th bracket payers wouldn’t show up using the current method.