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Tax Increase Approved By DFL Senators

Minnesota Senate Democrats proposed Friday an increase on income taxes for the wealthiest Minnesotans.

The story written by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger ran in the Pioneer Press. This story reported that the measure would impact a lot of Minnesotans and would fill the states budget with nearly $1 billion dollars every two years.

Under the plan, sure to be dubbed a "soak the rich" proposal, joint filers earning $250,000 a year would pay a new 9.7 percent income tax rate. The rate would impact about 60,000 returns, which is likely close to 120,000 people, and would raise $991 million for the state coffers every two years.

The Stassen-Berger story reported that the proposed tax increase will likely be vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and that if approved the new tax rate would be the highest in the nation. The story reported that Democrats know that they are facing an uphill battle but are willing to fight it in order to improve the aid that the state can provide to property tax relief and school funding.

But Senate Tax Chairman Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the money would pay for property tax relief and increased education funding, which voters and the governor have said they want. Still, passage of the bill, expected Saturday, won't be easy, he said.

A second version of the story ran in the Star Tribune and was written by Brian Bakst. The Bakst version reported that the tax proposal would add a fourth tier to the three-tier system already in place in Minnesota. The Bakst version also reported that the new tax rate would be 9.7 percent and would raise nearly $1 billion. The Bakst version reported that Democrats approved the proposal over other tax increase proposals on Friday morning.

Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Tom Bakk said his Democratic colleagues rallied around the plan during a closed-door caucus Friday morning. They chose the approach over another one that would have raised income taxes across the board.

The Bakst version did a good job reporting background information about the current status around the nation with regards to upper-level tax brackets.

California, Vermont and Oregon are the only states with top rates at nine percent or higher. Minnesota's current top rate is 7.85 percent.

The story concluded by reporting that the proposition will likely be vetoed by Pawlenty and that the proposition was in the middle of some very difficult times.

With the Legislature poised to pass at least some sort of income tax hike — but not by enough votes to overcome a veto — an end-of-session scramble to re-prioritize fewer dollars for education appears likely.

There was a very large disparity in the way that these two stories were reported. The Stassen-Berger version of the story was very brief and did not provide any background information. The Stassen-Berger version elected instead to have the reader come back for a follow up story on Saturday. The Bakst version was a little bit difficult to read at first but as the story progressed he gave the reader a good sense of what was going on both locally and nationally in some other states. Bakst did a much better job synthesizing the information and writing a story that was much more appropriate lengthwise. Due to the brevity and the request to come back for a better version of the story on Saturday from the Stassen-Berger version I was relegated to prefer the Bakst version. I think that Stassen-Berger needs to realize that a reader isn’t going to come back for another story a day later; they will simply get the story form some other news outlet.