The Economics for Lasting Progress project of the Minnesota Sustainable Development Initiative examined the economic signals sent by selected state policies. The report of this project, Smart Signals: Economics for Lasting Progress asks Minnesotans to question basic assumptions about the relationships between the environment, economy and communities. It identifies issues concerning the economic implications of state policies and ways to improve them for a healthier Minnesota. The report also proposes a new measure of economic progress, the Minnesota progress indicator, which reflects social and environmental, as well as economic, goals.
Smart Signals offers principles and recommendations applicable to the Minnesota Smart Growth Initiative and other aspects of Governor Jesse Ventura’s Big Plan. This project was funded with a grant from the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources.
Smart Signals identifies eight key issues:
1) Describing a healthy economy: Outlines the framework, goals and outcomes for a healthy Minnesota based on the recognition that environmental, economic and social conditions are intertwined.
2) Measuring what counts for a healthy economy: Presents the Minnesota progress indicator, a more realistic and comprehensive measure of progress and a valuable tool for policy-makers and all Minnesotans. An
Assessment of Progress Indicators is an expanded technical paper on this issue.
3) Connecting corporate subsidies with environmental citizenship: Examines the connection between economic development efforts and environmental protection in Minnesota. The report also recommends an approach to economic development that urges grantors to consider the performance of recipient firms in environmental and social matters, as well as traditional economic concerns.
4) Ensuring clean, safe and reliable transportation: Discusses opportunities for addressing transportation revenue shortfalls while collecting fees that might support transportation and transit alternatives and account for environmental damages.
5) Making home heating affordable: Suggests that the current sales tax exemption for home heating fuels makes heating fuels affordable, but Minnesota could also achieve long-term, affordable home heating for less money by motivating property owners to install energy-efficient technologies.
6) Developing a certified wood industry: Proposes that boosting the certified wood industry in Minnesota would be a prudent economic development strategy with many environmental and social benefits for communities.
7) Making the property tax work for smart growth: Offers a fresh look at the property tax system and explains how it penalizes urban landowners for improving property and thereby discourages redevelopment and encourages sprawl. A site-value taxation system, which sends positive economic signals to property owners, is recommended. Property Tax Reform for Smart Growth is an expanded technical paper on this issue.
8) Sending clear signals for air pollution control: Suggests that instead of using air emissions fees just to cover administrative costs, Minnesota should redesign the fees system to make it send clear and consistent economic signals to polluters. Such a system would bring greater economic, environmental and social benefits to the state.
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