Posts Tagged ‘minnesota’

Producing electricity from waste heat

The general concept of using waste heat from one process as an energy source for another is quite old, but this report says that some University of Minnesota researchers have figured out a practical way to generate electricity from it. It involves a new alloy which changes magnetic properties when it’s exposed to heat. Of course I have no idea whether it’s practical, or even whether some patent troll will step in to exact a fee for its use.  It will be interesting to check back in a year or two and see what has become of it.

And let’s remember, it was publicly funded (fortunately completed before the State of Minnesota suspended operations)

Funding for early research on the alloy came from a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research (involving other universities including the California Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, University of Washington and University of Maryland), and research grants from the U.S. Air Force and the National Science Foundation. The research is also tentatively funded by a small seed grant from the University of Minnesota’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment.

(No, I don’t know what “tentatively funded” means regarding completed work.)

This is your technology.  Don’t let the big guys take it away from you.Famous photo, unless it has been relocated

Minnesota looks at funding transport from land tax

A new report from the University of Minnesota looks at ways of financing transportation projects by capturing part of the benefit they provide.  Land value tax is only one of the eight options  (Land Value Tax,  Tax Increment Financing, Special Assessments, Transportation Utility Fees, Development Impact Fees,  Negotiated Exactions, Joint Development,  Air Rights) considered.

A quick skim indicates that on the whole it’s pretty good, though it seems to overestimate the difficulty of assessing land value, and repeats the error of some previous studies which conflates owners of land occupied by low income people with the low income people themselves. (More likely, low income people are renters living on land owned by someone else, and when taxes on such land increase the owners can’t pass the cost on to their tenants.)

There is also mention of a study, new to me, that seems to document an anti-sprawl benefit from a land tax. The study unfortunately is secured by ssrn; I shall have to try to find it elsewhere.

This study was requested and funded by the Minnesota legislature.

Hat tip to lvtfan.

Real estate tax inequities aren't inherent

Last month I used Illinois Department of Revenue data to blog about the Cook County Assessor’s failure to properly value vacant land.  Our good buddies at the Civic Federation took that data a couple of steps further to estimate the effective tax rates (pdf) paid by homeowners in a dozen suburban Cook County communities.  The effective tax rate is the percentage of actual property value that is paid in taxes.  And, no surprise, the rates in Chicago Heights and Harvey are more than double the rates in Glenview and Barrington.

This discrepancy isn’t due to any inherent problem with the real estate tax, but may have something to do with the fragmentation of taxing units, particularly school districts.  Areas with relatively little taxable real estate need to collect a greater percentage of its value than do areas with a larger tax base, other things being equal.  But there’s no reason we couldn’t have an equalization system under which the strong-tax-base communities share revenue with the others, as has been done since 1971 in Minnesota.

It is said that lower-income neighborhoods have a greater share of their real estate value in improvements rather than land, in which case exemption of improvements from the tax would also tend to equalize the burden.