April 24, 2006
The case for two newspapers

Let's hope the St. Paul Pioneer Press survives its current ownership crisis. The paper has had some excellent stories the past few days. On Sunday it took a look at ethanol subsidies. Remember the heat Gov. Tim Pawlenty took when he tried to cut them in his first budget plan? The corn growers hit him so hard he not only restored the subsidies, but also has become the biggest ethanol promoter in America. Now the Pioneer Press has a great piece on what those subsidies cost:

Today ethanol is booming as oil prices soar, yet Minnesota taxpayers still are priming the pump. Taxpayers continue to be billed $26 million a year to subsidize 11 privately owned ethanol plants that are now profitable beyond anyone's dreams.

Purdue University economist Wally Tyner calculates that at today's fuel prices, even an ethanol plant costing $100 million can be fully paid off in less than a year. "They're hugely profitable, that's why so many of them are being built," Tyner said.

Yet Minnesotans are funding ethanol subsidies even beyond that. Four times a year, the state sends checks to the farmers who own the 11 plants. The next payday arrives in May, when another $4.3 million will be paid, plus another $2.3 million in IOUs the state promises to pay later.

A few years ago even House Speaker Steve Sviggum was getting those checks. The Pioneer Press piece notes that no bill has been offered to end the subsidy.

What happened to the hunting and fishing rally? About 3,500 people showed up at the Capitol on Saturday, which is not a bad turnout as rallies go. But last year the crowd was at least 5,000. It seems a little odd that the number would drop, given that the bill to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would dedicate a portion of the sales tax to natural resources seems closer to passing this year. The bill is supposed to come up on the House floor Monday in what will likely be a marathon session with dozens of proposed amendments offered.

MPR's Annie Baxter has a report on a 5th District DFL debate Sunday:

The DFL candidates trying to replace Martin Sabo share a lot of similarities in their views. For the most part, they favor increased education spending, they want fewer tax breaks for the wealthy, and they oppose a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The endorsing convention is May 6.

The Twins stadium bill is in the House Ways and Means committee Monday night. Assuming it clears the committee, it should come up for a vote on the House floor Wednesday or Thursday.

Posted by Mike Mulcahy at 7:09 AM