PoliGraph: Picking apart Daudt, Thissen claims

poligraphThe Legislature finished up its work for the year last week, and the House Republican and Democratic leaders went on MPR News’ Daily Circuit to hash out what got done and what didn’t.

PoliGraph fact-checked four claims from the conversation between House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

  1. Listen Catharine Richerts talks with MPR News’ Tom Crann

“Minnesota now is the 4th highest taxed state in the nation. I think we are in the top five worst states for tax climate for businesses.”- Daudt

Daudt was responding to Gov. Mark Dayton’s boast that the state has more jobs than it did when he took office and that economic growth is on the rise.

“That tells one side of the story,” Daudt said regarding Dayton’s comments.

And by one measure, he’s right.

According to the Tax Foundation, a group that advocates for lower taxes, Minnesota’s highest income tax bracket of 9.85 percent ranks fourth in the nation. But by other measures, Minnesota does better. For instance, the local Center for Fiscal Excellence found that Minnesota has one of the most progressive income tax structures in the country.

Daudt’s second point is also right based on another Tax Foundation analysis. But again, there are other rankings. For instance, Forbes ranked Minnesota the 8th best state for business.

Why? “An improved economic outlook,” Forbes article said.

Overall, Daudt’s claim is correct.

UPDATE: The Minnesota Department of Revenue said that Daudt’s claims deserve further context.

Spokesperson Janelle Tummel wrote that the second part of Daudt’s claim “is incorrect if you consider other studies. For example, Ernst and Young says Minnesota is among the top ten states with the lowest effective tax rates on new investment.”

“Most people including most middle class Minnesotans are going to be seeing lower taxes as opposed to higher taxes.”- Thissen

While Republicans are quick to point out that Democrats raised taxes during the first year of the session, Democrats counter that most people will see tax reductions as a result of the Legislature’s actions.

Overall, a little more than half of Minnesota’s 4.2 million adult individuals will see a reduction in their taxes due to changes made in the most recent legislative session, according to the state’s revenue department.

Here’s how everything breaks down:

In 2013, Democrats increased income taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans – about 100,000 people, according to the Department of Revenue. They also raised taxes on cigarette wholesalers and distributors and closed some corporate tax loopholes. Those aren’t direct taxes on individuals, but the revenue department predicts that smokers will pay more for their cigarettes (and that some will quit as a result of the higher prices).

On the flip-side, the Legislature also adopted tax cuts that are projected to benefit hundreds of thousands of people.

For instance, more than 850,000 homeowners, renters and other property owners will see lower property taxes as a result of property tax relief passed by the Legislature in 2013 and 2014.

DFL lawmakers also point to legislation that squared Minnesota’s tax code with the federal tax code. Among provisions in the bill is the reinstatement of the “marriage penalty” fix, which hasn’t been on the books in Minnesota since 2010. It will benefit more than 1 million people starting next year, according to the revenue department. Otherwise, many provisions in that bill are simply a continuation of tax breaks that were already in place.

Thissen’s claim is accurate.

 “The enrollment has been so much under projection in the private pay portions of MNsure – as much as 80 percent under projection.” – Daudt, speaking about the state’s health insurance exchange.

Enrollment in private insurance plans is critical for the sustainability of MNsure. Every time someone buys a plan through the website, MNsure gets a small cut to support its operations in the future. Due to website troubles, MNsure had more trouble enrolling people in insurance than expected.

Daudt’s starting point on this claim is a March 2013 fiscal note put together by MNsure officials. In the very best case, MNsure officials expected to enroll 270,000 people in the exchange this year.

But the March analysis is somewhat irrelevant because it doesn’t account for MinnesotaCare, which is aimed at people who make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid but not enough to afford a plan of their own.

As it turns out, the state preserved MinnesotaCare and offers it through MNsure. As a result some people who would have bought private insurance have landed in this program instead.

A more accurate baseline is an Oct. 2013 analysis that figured about 70,000 people would enroll in private plans for 2014. In reality, only 50,000 people have bought plans on the exchange.

That means MNsure missed its enrollment mark by nearly 30 percent. The agency has readjusted its budget for next year to make sure it doesn’t need to ask the Legislature for additional money.

Daudt is right that MNsure didn’t enroll as many people as expected. But his claim is misleading because he overstates by how much.

“If you don’t like what is happening with MNsure, and the direction that’s going actually give us an alternative that is better. If their alternative is going back to the old system, the old status quo, I think Minnesotans are going to reject that in greater numbers and I think the poll numbers actually reflect that as well.” – Thissen.

Thissen points to three recent polls to support his claim.

One, conducted by CNN, showed that 61 percent of respondents want to keep the health care law in place or fix what’s already on the books. Around 38 percent want to replace the health care law all together or just get rid of it.

And a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from April found that 58 percent want Congress to improve the law, while 35 percent want to repeal the health care law and replace it with something else.

But the only recent poll that questioned Minnesotans is a Star Tribune survey asked if the state should keep MNsure or scrap it and start over. In this case, respondents were evenly split, with 40 percent saying the state should keep it and 40 percent saying the state should build a new exchange (20 percent were undecided).

Most polls also show that people are generally split over Obamacare in general.

Thissen’s claim paints a rosier picture of the public’s opinion about MNsure and the ACA. As a result, this claim leans toward misleading.

  • MinnDakota

    applauds all of the effort that Ms. Richert expended in finding irrelevant information with which to justify her attempts both to spin support for statements from the DFL and to cast aspersions on the statements of Republicans. But, I guess that’s what’s needed to glorify the radical progressivism of the majority party that currently controls both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature.