Michael Khoo Feature Archive

In the first votes testing parts of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget, two Senate committees on Thursday rejected his plans for the state's welfare and health programs and his proposals for higher education. (03/27/2003)
A proposal for a state-run casino in the Twin Cities has divided Native American communities. The package is supported by the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, who stand to share in millions of dollars of gambling revenues. But the state's other nine tribes say a new casino will eat into revenues they currently generate with their own gaming operations. The bill also faces opposition from lawmakers who say the state has no business in the gambling industry. (03/25/2003)
A bill to expand the storage of spent nuclear fuel at the Xcel Energy's Prairie Island nuclear plant has cleared its first legislative hurdle. On Wednesday the House Regulated Industries Committee approved the measure on a 13-7 party-line vote, with Republicans in support. Xcel says without the additional capacity, the plan will be forced to shut down in 2007, depriving the state of a major source of electricity. But environmental advocates say the company should be weaned from a reliance on nuclear power and be required to develop renewable energy alternatives. (03/20/2003)
The gun control debate at the state Capitol took several twists on Monday. Supporters of legislation to broaden the availability of firearm permits charged Senate DFL leaders with trying to sabotage their efforts by manipulating the committee process. But top Democrats say they're simply trying to encourage multiple viewpoints in order to refine the various proposals. (03/17/2003)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has released a five-year transportation package that he says will jumpstart road and bridge projects across the state. The plan relies on borrowing $550 million for highway construction and seeks an equal amount in advance funds from the federal government. Critics say the plan is shortsighted and makes almost no allowances for public transit. (03/14/2003)
More than 1,000 public employees converged on the state Capitol Thursday to demonstrate against proposed budget cuts and a plan to freeze public sector pay. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has fashioned a $4.2 billion deficit reduction package that relies heavily on spending reductions, and offers no new tax increases. Pawlenty has also proposed a wage freeze that would extend from state employees down to the city, county, and school district level. (03/13/2003)
A Democrat-led Senate committee on Monday began the first of what could be competing inquiries into whether the Commerce Department's handling of a $2 million settlement with a Florida insurance company was affected by a campaign contribution. At issue is whether the recent settlement with American Bankers Insurance Co. was lowered from a proposed $3.5 million fine that was discussed, but never finalized, under Gov. Jesse Ventura's administration. (03/10/2003)
A crowd of University of Minnesota students gathered at the state Capitol Thursday to voice their concerns about likely state budget cuts and increased tuition. The students arrived one day after university president Robert Bruininks delivered a similar message to lawmakers. But despite the warning of reduced programs and services, legislators say the current budget deficit means higher education should brace for cutbacks. (03/06/2003)
Officials in Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration say there's no substance to reports that a Florida insurance company received favorable treatment in return for campaign contributions. The company -- American Bankers Insurance -- also denies any wrongdoing connected to its political donations. But Democratic leaders in the Senate say they'll press for an investigation into the matter. (03/05/2003)
DFL leaders in the Senate are contemplating an obscure procedural change that critics say would present a roadblock to controversial social issues percolating in the Republican-led House. The change would make it much more difficult to dislodge a bill that's become ensnared in the committee process. And supporters of a wide array of conservative issues say it's a blatant attempt to stop certain bills from arriving for a vote in the full Senate. (02/25/2003)
Lawmakers introduced legislation Monday to allow video gaming at the Canterbury Park racetrack in Shakopee. Canterbury already allows betting on horse races, and provides a card club for poker games. (02/24/2003)
A new poll shows most Minnesotans are ready to accept the level of spending reductions outlined in Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget plan. Last week, Pawlenty released a deficit-reduction package that pruned back planned spending by almost $3 billion and offered no new tax increases. But the survey, conducted for Minnesota Public Radio and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, also shows that majorities of respondents expect the cutbacks to fall hard on some Minnesotans. (02/24/2003)
Tucked into Gov. Tim Pawlenty's $4.2 billion deficit-reduction package is a proposal to freeze the wages of all public employees. The freeze would affect not just state workers, but everyone on the public payroll -- police, county health workers, teachers, and even professors in the state colleges and universities system. Administration officials say the plan is a tool to keep a lid on spending during difficult budget times. But union officials say the plan erodes the collective bargaining process. (02/21/2003)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty is accusing local government officials of scare-mongering in order to preserve their state funding. As part of a $4.2 billion deficit-reduction package, Pawlenty suggested cutting aid to cities and counties by more than 20 percent. The governor says said local officials are exaggerating the impact those reductions might have. But supporters of the state aid say Pawlenty isn't telling the complete story. (02/19/2003)
Local government officials across the state say they're concerned that Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget proposals will lead to cuts in public safety or property tax increases or both. As part of Pawlenty's plan to erase a $4.2 billion deficit projected over the next two years, the governor has suggested cutting state aid to cities and counties. Administration officials say it's a simple matter of spreading the budget burden evenly. (02/19/2003)