Minnesota State Capitol
by Steve Timmer
Dec 12, 2014, 6:00 PM

Who’s the Load, really?

On Wednesday, the tenth of December, I linked to a story at the MPR website by Tim Pugmier about the state budget, and who contributes to it and who takes from it, and in what proportion. It included this statement, based on a Minnesota House nonpartisan staff report:

The latest numbers from the nonpartisan Minnesota House Research Department show the seven-county metro area pays 64 percent of the state’s taxes and gets back 53 percent of the major tax aids, credits and refunds. By comparison, the 80 non-metro counties pay 36 percent and get back 47 percent.

Based on this report, I was nonplussed (a word I don’t get to use nearly often enough) by another story on the same subject, an Associated Press story in the St. Cloud Times, on the same date, that reported the statistic exactly reversed, in other words, non-metro counties were the givers, not the takers:

Minnesota House Research Department data shows non-metro counties pay 16 percent more in taxes than metro counties and get back 6 percent less in major tax aids, credits and refunds.

Since this issue of giving and taking will be one of the hot ones in the Legislature this year, getting it right is rather important, as it correcting prior incorrect reporting, both for the Associated Press and the Times (and any other paper that printed the incorrect story).

But how could this happen you say? How could two news organization look at the same data and make an entirely contradictory conclusion? As it turns out, only one of the news organizations actually looked at the data, Tim Pugmier and MPR. The rewrite desk of the AP is responsible for its story.

ap sourcing

I know this happens all the time. But when you pick up a story without doing original reporting, it would be nice it the story that was picked up and republished had the same facts as the original.

Both the AP and the SC Times owe an apology to the truth, both in the form of a retraction and the inclusion of the correct information in the story.

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