This state isn't big enough for two potential 2012 hopefuls to be in it at the same time. As Gov. Pawlenty visits South America on a trade mission, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin signed books at the Mall of America.
Palin, a potential candidate for the White House in 2012, strolled into the mall to an adoring crowd of thousands. She signed books for 1,500 people and later held a fundraiser for a conservative group that's working to elect Republicans to the Minnesota House. MPR, the Pi Press, WCCO, MinnPost, the Star Tribune and AP have stories.
Palin didn't address the crowd and didn't speak with reporters. I heard her say six words as she walked out the door.
A man was arrested for throwing tomatoes at Palin.
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann was scheduled to see Palin last night. She wouldn't commit to backing a candidate in 2012. Not sure if that helps or hurts Pawlenty's White House chances.
Under the Dome
Republicans held a rally at the State Capitol in support of Gov. Pawlenty's spending cap proposal. The Senate Taxes Committee held a hearing on the proposal later in the day. MPR, AP, the Pi Press, the Star Tribune, KSTP and Forum Communications have stories.
The U of M says it's bracing for more state funding cuts. The school, however, will be spared in some ways because the federal stimulus prohibits deep cuts to higher education.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie will thank local elections officials for their work on the recount.
President Obama will roll out a jobs initiative today.
The event comes just a day after his approval rating hits a new low.
Speaking of polls, Rasmussen Reports says the Tea Party is more popular than the GOP.
The White House also says the pace of the stimulus will double in the next six months.
The EPA is prepared to regulate greenhouse gases.
The Senate debated an abortion amendment that would prohibit federal funding of abortion services for a public or private plan. A vote is scheduled for today.
DFL Sen. Al Franken urged his colleagues to defeat the amendment.
Democrats are also working to fix the public option.
The Star Tribune examines whether opting out is really an option.
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar attended the Kennedy Center honors.
DFL Rep. Tim Walz took some tough questions during a townhall on Afghanistan.
A bill that overhauls the financial services industry is headed for a vote in the House. Walz and DFL Rep. Collin Peterson are mentioned.
Airline workers call for fair union election rules. DFL Rep. Keith Ellison is mentioned.
DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar favors giving government regulators more power over scrutinizing the Federal Reserve.
Oberstar also recently toured a manufacturing plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
2010 Race for Governor
The DFL candidates for governor debated the issues in St. Paul on Monday night.
The Minneapolis city budget cuts police. Will it become a campaign issue for DFLer R.T. Rybak?
Former Gov. Wendell Anderson backs Democrat Margaret Anderson Kelliher.
Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, has picked up the support of another labor union.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Minnesota State Council announced its endorsement today. The IBEW represents 15,000 Minnesotans.
Kelliher also has the support of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 65, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees.
Here's the IBEW news release:
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Minnesota State Council announced today that Speaker of the House, Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL-Minneapolis) has earned their endorsement for Governor of Minnesota. This is Kelliher's fourth union endorsement, adding to a broad and growing grassroots coalition of working Minnesotans from every corner of the state.
"Our members, from Rochester to the Twin Cities to Moorhead to Duluth and the Iron Range, need a governor who will get electricians off the bench and back on the job," said Tom Koehler, President of the IBEW Minnesota State Council. "Minnesota needs a peoples-leader and we believe that person, that peoples-leader is Margaret Anderson Kelliher."
IBEW of Minnesota is over 15,500 members-strong working in the building construction trades, energy and manufacturing sectors across the state. "Our members have heard before that this is the most important election in their life and this one is no exception. That's because things keep getting worse, problems compound and real people suffer." Koehler went on to say "Margaret has always stood up for us. She has fought for our jobs, our families, and our future. The men and women of the IBEW are excited about the momentum behind Margaret's campaign and we are proud to be a part of the team."
All ten declared DFL candidates for governor participated in IBEW's comprehensive interview and screening process. But in the end, Kelliher's proven leadership stood out above the rest.
"Serious times call for serious leadership," Koehler said. "When it comes to job creation, Margaret has worked tirelessly to build a better tomorrow for a better Minnesota. The IBEW will work just as hard to elect Margaret the next Governor of Minnesota."
The IBEW Minnesota State Council is made up of 13 local unions representing over 15,500 members living throughout Minnesota.
Posted at 11:42 AM on December 8, 2009
by Tim Pugmire
Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, announced today that he'll soon lead a grassroots effort called "Racino Now." The group will try to get legislation passed to allow slot machines and video games at the Canterbury Park and Running Aces horse racing tracks. Day estimated the measure would bring in $125 million a year to the state. And with the state facing a $1.2 billion budget deficit, Day said he's optimistic about its chances.
" I believe that this is the year we can put it over the hill," Day said.
Day has pushed unsuccessfully for a racino measure before, but he said he never could work on the effort full time.
"I don't have enough time to go legislate 201 legislators, because I have my own senate district, and we're trying to get roads and schools and a whole host of things done," Day said. "So what happens is nobody is actually stayed on it and talked to legislators every single day about this."
Day said the effort is not designed specifically to fund a Vikings stadium, but he said it the revenue could used for that purpose.
"We got money for stadiums, education health care transportation," Day said. "You can move $125 and move it around any way you want."
Day is serving his sixth term. His resignation will require a special election in District 26.
Day claimed that Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently told him he would sign a racino bill if it landed on his desk. Asked about that pledge, Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung offered this written response:
"Gov. Pawlenty has stated many times publicly and privately there isn't enough legislative support to pass gaming legislation and it's also not a road he's interested in going down again," McClung wrote.
Common Cause Minnesota responded to Day's announcement, saying the resignation highlights the need for revolving door legislation. The group wants a two-year waiting period before a former legislator can become a lobbyist.
"When a legislator leaves office to become a lobbyist it only further erodes the public's trust in their elected officials," Executive Director Mike Dean said in a news release. "The public is growing suspicious of elected officials who may use his or her government position to line up a future job by currying favor with special interests. The mere perception of impropriety underlying this type of behavior is detrimental to the public's faith in government."
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton has been campaigning for governor with a simple catchphrase "Tax the rich." At nearly every debate, Dayton says the rich aren't paying their fair share in taxes:
"Tim Pawlenty's own department of revenue says that the wealthiest 10 percent of the people in Minnesota pay only three fourths of their proportionate share of income in state and local taxes. The wealthiest 1 percent of Minnesotans pay only two thirds of their proportionate share of income in state and local taxes.
Tim Pawlenty is the best tax shelter the wealthy in Minnesota have ever had. And meanwhile this talk of no new taxes, of course, is not true for most Minnesotans. Property taxes have gone up. Fees have gone up.
My solution, first and foremost before I raise any other tax, I'm going to make taxes progressive in Minnesota again. If the wealthiest 10 percent of the people the state paid even a flat tax, paid even the same percentage of their income as everybody else, that would be $3.8 billion of additional revenues in this biennium. More in the next biennium.
Read my lips. Tax the rich. That's where the money is. It's only fair. We need that money for our schools and everything else." Listen
Paul Wilson, head of the Research Department at the Minnesota Department of Revenue, says Dayton is right that wealthier Minnesotans pay a smaller share of their income in taxes. He points to the Minnesota Tax Incidence Study that was done last year.
While Wilson quibbles with the numbers (he says his back-of-the-envelope calculation finds that hiking income taxes on the wealthiest 10 percent would general $3.4 billion not $3.8 billion) he said Dayton's idea would generate more money and make the tax system more fair.
Dayton's plan would come with significant costs. For example, Wilson said Minnesota's top earners currently pay an income tax rate of 7.85 percent. He said the wealthiest 10 percent of Minnesotans currently have total household incomes of $137,000 or more before taxes.
Wilson said if Dayton hopes to generate $3.4 billion, he would have to nearly double the income tax rate for the wealthiest 10 percent:
"If that is what he's suggesting, to actually do this by raising the top rate or even raising the top rate for those over $250,000 for married couples like one of the House or Senate bills did, you're talking about rates of 13 percent to 15 percent if all you do is raise the top rate..."
"...But that's how large of an increase in the income tax rate that it would take to make that level. To make that the same percentage of income as the state and local tax burden for top 10 percent as for the lower income groups."
Wilson said that would make Minnesota's top income tax rate the highest in the country.
Republicans have argued that increasing the top tax rate would only drive wealthier Minnesotans and small business owners to move to lower tax states.
Even Democrats in the Legislature weren't willing to go as far as Dayton. The Senate passed a bill last year that increased the income tax rate on nearly every Minnesotan and increased the top rate to 9.25 percent for joint filers earning more than $250,000 a year. That bill would have generated $2 billion. Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a House/Senate Conference Committee report that created a new income tax rate of 9 percent on joint filers earning more than $250,000 a year.
Listen to my entire interview with Wilson here on Dayton's proposal and tax policy in general here: Listen
Gov. Pawlenty issued a news release saying he will not cut aid to local governments this month. Many city officials were concerned that a cut to Local Government Aid payments would lead to service cuts and increase property taxes. Pawlenty sent this letter to city and county officials. Here's the release from Pawlenty's office:
GOVERNOR PAWLENTY ANNOUNCES DECEMBER LOCAL AID PAYMENTS WILL NOT BE UNALLOTED
~ In letter to city and county leaders, Governor says future payments could be reduced ~
Saint Paul - Governor Tim Pawlenty today wrote to city and county leaders to inform them he does not intend to take executive action to reduce local aid payments later this month.
Last week, state budget officials announced a $1.2 billion deficit for the current two-year budget period. Governor Pawlenty stated he will work with the legislature to resolve the shortfall, but had said because of the timing of payments, that a portion of the December local aid payments could be unalloted.
In his letter, Governor Pawlenty said, "Given the imminent expected payment of December local aid, I have determined that additional local aid program cuts, if any, should be focused on future payments." The Governor noted that if the legislature is unable to pass appropriate budget reductions, future aid payments would likely be reduced.
Approximately $437 million in local aid payments are scheduled to be sent to cities and counties later this month. Those payments include local government aid (LGA), county program aid (CPA), market value homestead credits (MVHC) and other local aid programs. LGA and CPA payments are delivered in two separate payments in July and December. MVHC payments are sent out in October and December.
Funding totals for those programs in 2009 were:
· Local government aid (to cities): $481.5 million
· County program aid (to counties): $194.9 million
· Market value homestead credits (to cities, counties and townships to reduce property taxes): $197.1 million
Approximately 45 percent of the state's population, 2.4 million Minnesotans, lives in communities that receive no LGA payments. In 2009, 92 cities with a combined population of nearly 1.4 million people and the state's townships, with 980,000 residents, received no LGA.
Governor Pawlenty has requested that legislative leaders start committee hearings immediately to craft budget reductions that could be enacted promptly at the beginning of the legislative session that gets underway on February 4, 2010. The Governor has also ordered state government agencies to begin holding back a portion of their spending for possible cuts.
Governor Pawlenty's spokesman, Brian McClung, said it's unlikely that Pawlenty will unilaterally cut any state spending between now and the 2010 Legislative Session which begins in February. McClung said any cuts through the process known as unallotment are unlikely now that Pawlenty decided against withholding $437 million in aid payments to cities and counties:
"The governor has said all along that his preference is to work with the Legislature to resolve the budget deficit. The governor is not intending to use his unallotment authority between now and the state of the legislative session barring any unforeseen circustances."
One major factor could be the two lawsuits challenging Gov. Pawlenty's unallotment authority. A Ramsey County District Court judge is currently considering two lawsuits that argue Pawlenty exceeded his authority when he slashed $2.7 billion on his own in July.
As for the current budget shortfall, McClung reitterated Pawlenty's call for state lawmakers to begin holding committee hearings to address the state's $1.2 billion budget deficit. Pawlenty hopes lawmakers can address the budget deficit immediately when they return to the State Capitol in February.
Meanwhile, city officials are breathing a sigh of relief. Gary Carlson, a lobbyist with the League of Minnesota Cities, said he's pleased that Pawlenty didn't cut state aid to cities. He is, however, worried the cuts will come next year:
"His announcement today just simply means that we have a $1.2 billion deficit that's going to have to be addressed by the Legislature when they convene in February. We're not out of the woods yet by any meants but at least we have a bit of certainty as we set our local budgets for the 2010 year."
Lawmakers return for the 2010 session on February 4th.
AP is reporting that Senate Democrats have reached a deal to drop the public option:
Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to provide any details at a mid-evening news conference where he told reporters a "broad agreement" had been reached between liberals and moderates on the controversial issue.
With it, he said, the end is in sight for passage of the legislation that Congress has labored over for months.
In place of a government-run plan, originally designed as a way of forcing competition on private industry, officials said the Democrats had tentatively settled on a private insurance arrangement to be supervised by the federal agency that oversees the system through which lawmakers purchase coverage. Additionally, the tentative deal calls for Medicare to be opened to uninsured Americans beginning at age 55, a significant expansion of the large government health care program that currently serves the 65-and-over population.