1) CASH AND THE MINNESOTA LEGISLATOR
"GOP leaders move to trim lawmakers' expense payments," the headline on an MPR story said when the Legislature began its work in January. How did that leading-by-example thing work out? Not so well, MPR's Tom Scheck reports today. The move in the Senate was supposed to cut $100,000 out of the budget; it saved $50,000 over 2009. That was more than offset by the increase in per diem payments in the House, Scheck reports.
Taking the maximum amount of per diem -- about $12,000 -- was a bipartisan effort.
Sen. Mike Parry said he would be willing to take less per diem if he were paid more. One legislator who took no per diem said the private sector doesn't pay people this way, so neither should the government.
In 2009, the Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to per diem payments when it ruled an increase in per diem payments is not an unconstitutional salary increase. The last time the Senate voted to increase per diem, the vote wasn't close.
More politics: Tim Pawlenty made enough bold assertions in his economic plan's release yesterday to allow fact-checkers to easily see if his assumptions were correct. The Washington Post did, finding many of the underpinnings of his plan are faulty.
Pawlenty blamed "Obamacare" for spiraling health costs. But, the Post noted, the law doesn't full take effect for three years and the report his campaign cited doesn't attribute costs to the health care reform law.
Pawlenty also said, "Five percent economic growth over 10 years would generate $3.8 trillion in new tax revenues. With that, we would reduce projected deficits by 40 percent. All before we made a single budget cut."
Cool. And probably wrong, the fact-checker said, because the former governor based his math on assuming 5 percent annual growth, which doesn't happen anymore. The last time it did was about 50 years ago.
But the paper reserves its biggest blow for Pawlenty's assertion that cutting 1 percent of the budget for six years would balance it by 2017.
The projected deficit in 2017 is $890 billion. In other words, Pawlenty is proposing so much deficit reduction that he cannot meet his goal even by eliminating ALL spending on nondefense discretionary programs ($462 billion). The military would need to be decimated, or Social Security or Medicare slashed.
The Post gave Pawlenty "two Pinocchios" for his effort.
The parodies of the Minnesota kid giving an inspirational speech on learning to ride a bike keep coming.
Who's to say the University of Minnesota president's mansion didn't need a half million dollars for renovations, including a second kitchen. But timing is everything in the world of public opinion.
KSTP reports the U is spending $550,000 "to fix the pool, summer house and adding a second kitchen in the Eastcliff mansion. The second kitchen is needed because the University president needs privacy "while parties are catered out of the main kitchen. U officials say the pool and summer house are falling apart and are in need of a complete renovation."
The mansion is more than just the president's living area. The university holds other functions there, too. Some involve the person who lives there; many do not.
According to a November article from the U of M Daily, the Brooks family -- who donated the house to the university in 1958 -- are picking up 60% of the tab, and private donors are paying for the rest.
But KSTP's report says $215,000 in public money is being used on the project
"There are two projects underway: summer house restoration ($450,000) and addition of a kitchen in the private residence ($100,000)," University of Minnesota spokesman Daniel Wolter said in an e-mail this morning. "Of this, $335,000 was raised from private sources (a gift from the Brooks family and private donations to Friends of Eastcliff). The remaining portion is University funds."
"The project did evolve between the Daily coverage in November and when the Board acted in March. So, I do believe KSTP had the overall numbers correct," he said.
The university spent $640,000 on repairs when president Nils Hasselmo left the U in the mid-'90s. "If you have to live in public housing, this is the best," Hasselmo said about his digs.
In 1988, money spent on the residence helped bring down then-president Ken Keller. He resigned amid a $1.5 million renovation of the mansion and a $200,000 renovation of his office.
That led Gov. Rudy Perpich to pull his request for $23.1 million to fund a program at the U for raising standards. Some digging into the renovations revealed the University had $53 million sitting in a reserve fund.
Want an inside look at the place? Here's an online tour, courtesy of the U's Web site.(6 Comments)
Slowly, a pop culture phenomenon has been making its way across America. Someone, somewhere came up with the idea of a "lost" poster with singer Lionel Richie. The tear-off sheets at the bottom, which normally might have a phone number, has lyrics of a song (The picture above is from Brooklyn, we believe. It appeared in March.).
Today, it was spotted in West Duluth.(2 Comments)
Pew Research is out with a survey this afternoon that says "46% say they are hearing mostly bad news about the nation's economy." What's the story there? That 54% of people apparently aren't.
It's not, however, as if most people are finding things pretty cheery; most are finding a mix of good and bad news on the economy. This is a big deal because economies are notoriously emotional things. A 9-percent jump in people who say they're hearing mostly bad news probably means most people believe what they're hearing and are likely to make some decisions because of it. That's the kind of thing that starts recessions.
This is one of the challenges facing presidential candidates. They will hammer the Obama administration mercilessly in the coming months, potentially causing consumers to pull back, stuff the nation into a recession, which -- if they're successful with their strategy -- they get to inherit.
The dismal science, indeed.
Maybe the economy needs more people in search of instant gratification. A separate study says if that's the case, young people are the answer. The survey said the more credit card debt and college loans young adults had, the higher their self-esteem and the more they felt in control of their lives.
Until they turn 30, according to the Discover Disco Blog.
Right around that fateful 30th birthday, however, the stress of owing tons and tons of money seemed to kick in. Starting at age 28, the more debt people had, the bigger a hit their self-esteem took. This may be because if you ask an 18-year-old with a credit card how much money they expect to making by the time they reach the distant age of 30, they'll probably put the figure at around a bajillion dollars. By their late 20′s, these folks "may be realizing that they overestimated how much money they were going to earn in their jobs," as Dwyer puts it. "When they took out the loans, they may have thought they would pay off their debts easily, and it is turning out that it is not as easy as they had hoped.".