Survey USA: Minnesotans Want Budget Surplus Back

There are all kinds of plans, ideas, and proposals for what to do with Minnesota’s $9.25 billion budget surplus, from spending on education or paid family leave to giving much of the surplus back to taxpayers.

In our latest KSTP/SurveyUSA poll, it’s clear that most Minnesotans want much of the surplus back one way or another.

According to the survey, 68% of respondents say they agree with a plan proposed by Gov. Tim Walz to send direct payments of $500 to single taxpayers and $1,000 to married tax filers. Only 18% disagree, and 14% are not sure.

Those results did not surprise Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier. “When you say here’s $500, do you want it? What do you think most people will say? Yes!,” Schier said with a laugh.

Survey respondents also favor a state Senate Republican plan to cut income taxes for nearly every Minnesotan who earns a taxable income by reducing the state’s first tax bracket rate. The plan receives 53% support, with just 24% opposed.

But the most popular idea would be a combination of the two plans.

The survey shows 73% favor both direct payments and cutting income taxes, and just 16% oppose such an idea that no one has formally proposed.

“Tax cuts are popular,” Schier says. “They’re not as popular as the $500 check because a tax cut is a bit imprecise. Who’s it for? How much? How does it help me.” Combining the direct payments the governor calls “Walz check” with tax cuts Republicans want is a popular idea. “It was my money to begin with. It’s $500. I’m getting it back. Yes. Please. Now,” Schier told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Another popular proposal is eliminating taxes on all Social Security income. In our survey, 81% support the idea, with just 7% opposed. However, both Gov. Walz and DFL members of the state House opposed that idea from Republicans. Instead, the House has a plan for tax credits for families with young children.

“The House position is a very complex position, and it’s not easy to explain to voters, and that’s a political disadvantage for House Democrats,” Schier says.

And in an election year, that could be key because all sides are looking for a political advantage.

SurveyUSA interviewed a representative cross-section of 650 Minnesota adults online 04/06/22 through 04/11/22, using sample provided by Lucid Holdings LLC of New Orleans. Of the adults, 556 were registered to vote and were asked the questions which follow. The pool of adult survey respondents was weighted to US Census targets for gender, age, race, education, and home ownership.



Homebuyers Stymied by Fewer Homes, High Prices, Rising Rates

Shortly after moving to South Florida for a new job with the U.S. military, Shannon Kaufman and his wife, Wendy, signed up for a whole other mission: buying a home.

For months, they scoured listings, strategizing late into the night on which homes to target and working out how much they could afford, even if it meant using some of their retirement savings.

After visiting 200 listings and making offers on 15 homes that ultimately didn’t pan out, the Kaufmans finally found a home that fits at least some of their needs. They’ll be renting it, however.

“We found a place that’s smaller than we want, but it’ll work until we have something built or until the market cools off,” said Shannon Kaufman, 47.

America’s housing market has grown increasingly frenzied, and prices are out of reach for many buyers, especially first-timers. This spring, traditionally the busiest season for home sales, is more likely to deliver frustration and disappointment for aspiring homebuyers than it is homeownership.

The number of homes for sale nationally remains near record lows, fueling fierce competition among buyers vying for fewer homes. From Los Angeles to Raleigh, North Carolina, when a house does hit the market, it typically sells within days.

Bidding wars are common, often driving the sale price well above what the owner was asking. And would-be buyers planning to finance their purchase with a home loan are often losing out to investors and others able to buy a home with cash. A quarter of all homes sold in February were purchased with cash, up from 22% a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. Real estate investors accounted for 19% of transactions in February, up from 17% a year ago.

Nichol Khan, a project manager, and her husband Ed moved to Mesa, Arizona, from Phoenix two years ago to shorten their commute to work. Home prices in the Phoenix area have jumped 20% from a year ago to $500,000, according to Realtor.com.

“The prices just keep going up and up,” Khan said.

The couple has lost out on more than a dozen homes they bid on. Some of the homes ended up selling for less in cash than the couple had offered.

“We don’t have $500,000 in cash,” said Khan, 42. “We just could not be competitive with that.”

Fewer homes on the market and high prices have been the hallmark of the housing market for the past 10 years or so. Now, rising mortgage rates further complicate the home buying equation. Higher rates could limit the pool of buyers and cool the rate of home price growth — good news for buyers. But higher rates also weaken their buying power.

The average rate on a 30-year home loan has climbed to around 4.7%. A year ago, average rates hovered just above 3%, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. The increase follows a sharp move up in 10-year Treasury yields, reflecting expectations of higher interest rates overall as the Federal Reserve moves to hike short-term rates in order to combat surging inflation.

Would-be buyers who applied for a home loan in February faced a median monthly mortgage payment of $1,653, including principal and interest, an increase of 8.3% from a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

“It’s hard to believe, but I do think it’s going to be tougher this year, in some respects, than it was in previous years,” said Danielle Hale, Realtor.com’s chief economist. “So far, at least, we have seen the number of homes for sale continue to decline and prices continue to rise. Those two factors combined suggest that the competitive market is going to keep buyers on their toes.”

Buyers should set their sights on homes that are listed well within what they can afford, experts say.

“You should be looking 15%-20% below their limit; that gives them room for appraisal gaps, it gives them room for negotiating,” said Tracy Hutton, a broker with Century 21 in Indianapolis.

Being well prepared sometimes isn’t enough when a homeowner prefers to accept an all-cash offer, rather than sell to a buyer with financing.

Wendy Kaufman in South Florida couldn’t even get into an open house for a property on the market after she revealed the couple had a mortgage backed by the Veterans Administration.

“When they saw I had a VA preapproval they said, ‘Sorry we don’t want to work with you.’” she said.

Sometimes, buyers don’t have a chance to make an offer before a home is snapped up, sight unseen.

In the Miami area, so-called “blind offers” have become common as a way to get around other buyers, said Rafael Corrales, a Redfin agent.

One reason is the ultra-low level of homes for sale, which for the greater Miami metropolitan area, was down 55% in February from a year ago, according to Realtor.com.

While every market is unique, there is one common hurdle across the U.S.: affordability. The median U.S. home price jumped 15% in February from a year earlier to $357,300, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The San Jose, California, metro area had 40% fewer homes for sale in February than a year ago, according to Realtor.com. Buyers there have to navigate some of the most expensive home prices in the nation. The median home listing price climbed 13.3% to about $1.36 million in February from a year earlier.

The market trends are a bit more welcoming for buyers in the Midwest, including the Indianapolis metropolitan area, where the number of homes for sale was down about 23% from a year ago. The median home price there stood at $287,000 in February, up 8.5% from a year earlier.

In Raleigh, home listings were down a whopping 55% in February from a year earlier. Competition for fewer homes helped push the median home price to $430,000, a 9% increase from February 2021.

Those trends made for a more competitive market for first-time buyers like Lisa Piercey and her husband, Alex Berardo. First-time buyers made up 29% of all homes sold nationally last month. That share has averaged 31% annually over the past 10 years.

The couple began looking in December for homes at $350,000 or below. They offered $5,000 over the asking price on two properties but lost out to rival bidders.

“That was all we could afford,” said Lisa Piercey, a 32-year old project manager. “It’s really defeating, really disappointing.”

In the end, the couple bought a townhome in a new construction community, though they see it as a stepping stone to a more spacious house with a big yard.

“Its big enough that we can still start our family and then move when the market hopefully dies down in a couple of years,” she said.


(Associated Press)


Workforce Grants Could Mean Free Job Training

It’s not just restaurants and retailers. Employers everywhere are looking for workers, which means opportunities for those workers to dig into what they want to do.

Duluth Workforce Development recently received $1.1 million worth of grants from Minnesota’s Pathways to Prosperity program. They applied for four grants, all of which were fully funded.

“It really started with talking to employers to find out where are the needs for skills? And what we’re able to do is kind of work backwards from that,” Career Counselor Betsy Hill said. “So hearing from Essentia and St. Luke’s that they need medical office, people in patient registration roles and patient account roles and hearing that everywhere that hires CNAs needs them.”

The grant money will focus on training people for careers in the fields of healthcare and construction as well as IT and manufacturing.

“The exciting thing about being fully funded in these grants is that we’re able to help people really at any stage of their entering a career into really, ‘I’m not really sure how the healthcare field, where I might fit into that, but I’m interested in it,’ all the way to, ‘I’m already in a nursing program and I need some tuition assistance to finish it,'” Hill said.

They have until June 2023 to use the money on everything from short-term certification programs to college credits toward two- or four-year degrees to bus passes or gas cards.

“This is a great time for reinvention,” Hill said. “This is a fabulous time for people to kind of look around and figure out, what is it that I want to spend my work hours doing? Because chances are if there’s an employer out there you’re interested in, they’re looking for you. Whether they have a job posting out or not, they’re probably hiring.”

The process starts with an assessment and includes one-on-one time with a job counselor. Hill encouraged people to reach out even if they don’t have an exact plan.

“There’s a lot of underutilized resources out there. We are recruiting people for these classes,” she said. “So if people aren’t sure that they can attain their goals because, ‘Oh, I need to go to school for that. How would I do that?’ there’s a lot of help out there right now. We would love to connect to people who are looking for it.”

You must be at least 18 years old and live in southern St. Louis County, among other eligibility requirements. You can find more information on the city’s Workforce Development page.

“There’s such rewarding work out there to be done, and you know, sometimes people just don’t realize that it could be for them,” Hill said.


Making Sure You and Your Home are Covered Through Licensed Contractors

Rochester Area Builders reported that they’ve gotten more calls than ever about homeowners hiring unlicensed contractors for home renovations, and then being left with unfinished homes and emptier pockets.

Executive Director John Eischen said people have been hiring unlicensed workers for their jobs because labor shortages and supply chain issues have caused most contractors to be booked.

“Because everybody is very busy so you’re trying to get your project done, totally understand why somebody wants to get that project done. Whether it’s a graduation open house or something like that. So they’re driven to find anybody to get the work and that’s when those challenges come up,” said Eischen.

He said most of the homeowners pay upfront for the work and material and when the time comes for the work to be done, it’s not. And the homeowners have to pay for the extra work.

“The importance of hiring a license contractor is they have the proper insurance for one thing. And if there is a challenge sometime down the road with some work that was done, the state has a fund that’s called the Contractor Recovery Fund so every time a licensed builder reviews their license, a portion of that fee goes to that fund. So that’s accessible to homeowners that might of had a challenge with a licensed builder,” said Eischen.

(KIMT 3)