Posted at 6:30 AM on March 1, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: Daily Digest
Welcome to the Daily Digest, where the state has a surplus....
....but not for long, as MPR's Tim Pugmire explains.
The extra cash is already spoken for, and the state's forecasters say we're still in for a $1.1 billion deficit by 2014.
Republicans are using the surplus to support their case for lower spending.
Now that they know what the state's fiscal situation looks like, Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP leaders want to focus on job creation for the rest of the session.
Minnesota's economic outlook has improved, but not dramatically, the forecast indicates.
Expect an announcement on a stadium deal today.
Two non-binding legal opinions say UMN regent Steve Sviggum's second job as the Senate GOP's spokesman represents a conflict of interest.
Rep. Kate Knuth will not seek re-election.
After a winter hibernation, PoliGraph is back. It says Barack Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, missed the mark on the President's two-year record.
Sen. Gary Kubly was at Regions Hospital in critical condition Wednesday night.
Entrepreneurship in Minnesota
MPR's Ground Level project is looking at entrepreneurship in Minnesota.
This story profiles Jason LaValley, and his start-up in Bemidji.
Ground Level has also come up with some fantastic graphics that show changes in Minnesota's business culture.
You can read more about Minnesota's entrepreneurs here.
The U.S. House is expected to vote on legislation that would allow the $700 million St. Croix River to be built.
The debate has pitted Rep. Michele Bachmann, who supports the bill, against DFL Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, who argue the bridge is too expensive.
Remember: Redistricting will force McCollum to campaign in the Stillwater area. The proposed bridge would connect the area to Wisconsin.
Ahead of the vote, congressional lawmakers are getting an earful on the bridge from Minnesota's officials, MinnPost reports.
The federal government is close to compensating Minnesota's Chippewa bands for tribal land it sold. Members of Minnesota's Washington delegation are behind the bill.
In Capitol Hill testimony, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the economy will grow modestly this year, the New York Times reports.
Centrist Republicans are becoming a rare species in the Senate.
North Korea will suspend its nuclear weapons tests. The U.S. is sending food aid in return.
Tensions overseas are having an effect on gas prices, the New York Times reports.
On the Campaign Trail
Rick Santorum is focusing on Ohio, where he hopes to pull out a win after victories for Mitt Romney in the Arizona and Michigan primaries.
Santorum is calling the Michigan primary a victory because he split the delegates with Romney (though Romney won the state's popular vote.)
The New York Times reports that Obama's campaign theme is starting to coalesce: America's making a comeback.
First Lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to be in Minnesota on March 16 to raise money for President Obama's presidential campaign. Mrs. Obama is scheduled to hold the fundraiser at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Donors are being asked to give between $250 and $10,000 to attend the reception. Donors who give $1,000 will get "preferred viewing." Couples who give $5,000 will get a photo with the First Lady. $10,000 donations will include a "host greet."
Mrs. Obama has been more active on the campaign trail in recent months as it gets closer to the 2012 election. For example, she attended a fundraiser for the Obama campaign in Louisville last week.
The fundraising letter, sent by Lou and Carol Frillman, suggested this may be the only opportunity for donors to see Michelle Obama this election cycle.
"We believe that this is a (sic) excellent opportunity to meet the most loved, admired, and respected First Lady of our time. Will she be back in Minneapolis before November?
Who knows? So why take the chance?"
President Obama last visited Minnesota in August. He held a town hall rally in Cannon Falls to tout his proposal to boost the economy.(1 Comments)
The House of Representatives Thursday passed an exemption from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act allowing for construction of a new $690 million bridge over the St. Croix River to replace the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge. The vote was 339-80.
The bill was sponsored by GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar. It had bipartisan support in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Two House Democrats from Minnesota, 4th District Rep. Betty McCollum and 5th District Rep. Keith Ellison, opposed the bridge project calling it too big and too expensive.
The Senate passed the bill in January. Bachmann said she was looking forward to President Obama signing the bill so construction can begin.
"The St. Croix River Crossing Project is an incredible project that has incredible, bipartisan support. It is not very often that we get all four senators from Minnesota and Wisconsin, the governors from Minnesota and Wisconsin, and a diverse group of representatives on board with the same issue," Bachmann said.
Klobuchar said Obama would sign the bill.
"After 30 years of debate and delay, we finally got it done," said Klobuchar. "Today is a victory for the residents and businesses along the St. Croix River Valley who have waited long enough for a safe, new bridge. This effort is an example of what can get done when people put politics aside and do what is best for our state. I appreciate the work of my colleagues in the House and Senate as well as Gov. Dayton who helped get this project over the finish line."
Ellison also reacted:
"I have consistently supported replacing the Stillwater Lift Bridge. However, the design the House of Representatives authorized today is both oversized and overpriced. Many bridges in our state need repair. Limited transportation funds should be used responsibly for projects throughout the state. For example, the Interstate 35W Bridge, which tragically fell into the Mississippi River four years ago, cost $234 million to rebuild in its entirety and carries 140,000 vehicles daily. By contrast, the St. Croix Bridge is expected to cost $700 million and carry 18,000 vehicles a day.
"Minnesota has 1,400 neglected bridges statewide that need repair, including in the Fifth Congressional District. A right-sized St. Croix bridge would allow other communities to repair the bridges they need, creating good Minnesota jobs and preserving our state's scenic river areas. By exempting the bridge from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Congress is also setting a precedent that would justify building bridges over any of the country's Wild and Scenic Rivers. I join Former Vice President Walter Mondale, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and local and national environmental organizations in opposing this bill.
"I will continue to work for smart investments in Minnesota's roads and bridges that create good jobs for our state."
Gov. Mark Dayton also issued a statement.
"I am delighted to see this important project move forward; this new bridge is urgently needed. The project will put thousands of people in the construction industry to work. "I am very grateful to the House Leadership for expediting the bill. Thank you to Congresswoman Bachmann, Senator Klobuchar, Governor Walker of Wisconsin Stillwater Mayor Harycki, and all of our partners on this project."
Rep. Betty McCollum's reaction:
"Every policy debate has two sides and I worked hard to reflect the voices of Minnesotans in the 4th District, as well as those Stillwater and Oak Park Heights residents who are deeply concerned about this mega-bridge project.
"Congress' passage of this $700 million bridge bill doesn't diminish its excessive cost, size, negative effect on Highway 36 traffic congestion, or its adverse impact on the St. Croix River.
"Supporters of this legislation, including Senators Klobuchar and Franken, and Gov. Dayton, assume responsibility for protecting communities along Highway 36 from crippling traffic congestion and the families and businesses of Oak Park Heights from property tax increases - the direct consequences of the project they so strongly championed.
"I want to thank my friend and Minnesota colleague, Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05) for his eloquence on the floor of the House in opposition to S. 1134. I share Congressman Ellison's concern that replacing one bridge at a cost of $700 million to the exclusion of more than 1,100 other structurally deficient bridges in Minnesota places too many communities and motorists at risk. I am committed to working with Rep. Ellison, Gov. Dayton and all Minnesota members of Congress and state legislators to repair or replace these substandard bridges."
Republican Pete Hegseth formally launched a campaign for U.S. Senate against DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Thursday.
At a state Capitol news conference, Hegseth criticized Klobuchar for supporting government bailouts and stimulus spending. Hegseth, 31, is a Minnesota Army National Guard captain who has never before run for office. He says his age and lack of elective office experience should not be factors against him.
"I think a lot of Minnesotans are kind of sick of the folks that have run for office their entire life and have been career politicians and have spent their entire life maneuvering and calculating their way to some higher office," said Hegseth. "I've spent my time in service serving in the military."
Hegseth has two bronze stars for his military service and recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He says he will abide by the GOP endorsement process. So does former State Rep. Dan Severson, the only other Republican actively campaigning to run against Klobuchar.
Hegseth did not say how much money he thinks he will need to raise for his campaign.
Posted at 1:57 PM on March 1, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: MN Legislature
A proposed constitutional amendment to require voters to show a photo identification at the polls has cleared another hurdle in the Minnesota Senate, despite lingering questions about what the new process would actually cost.
Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee approved the measure today by a vote of 9 - 6, sending it next to the Rules Committee. State officials estimate that local governments would have to spend $104,000 to place the question on the statewide ballot this fall. If it passes, they estimate first-year local costs at between $8.3 million and $23.3 million, depending on whether new electronic poll books are purchased. Finance Chair Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said Minnesota Management and Budget couldn't pin down the exact cost because lawmakers would still have to work out the details of the ID requirement during the 2013 session.
"We really don't have any solid fiscal note on this, and it is speculation," Robling said.
The Senate bill would allow voters to cast provisional ballots, which wouldn't be counted until eligibility questions are resolved. Joe Mansky, elections manager for Ramsey County, said that provision would require a parallel process. Mansky said he would need to hire two additional election judges for each polling location.
"Just here in Ramsey County, our biennial cost just for that activity would be about $150,000," Mansky said. "Typically, we're about 10 percent of the state's cost. So, you can do the math on the cost on that."
Senate Democrats are also still questioning the need for the ID requirement. Sen . Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, said the amendment is the first time in Minnesota that he's ever seen an attempt to take away a person's right to vote. Cohen described the bill as a solution in search of a problem.
"We hear these vague allegations of what often is stated as people don't feel very good about the voting system," Cohen said. "They have concerns about the integrity of their ballot. Maybe we should identify those people and just simply hire a few therapists who could maybe help them through the difficulty they're having with their feelings about the voting system."
Sen. Gen Olson, R- Minnetrista cautioned Cohen not to be flippant. Olson said supporters of the bill value the right to vote, and they want to protect the process.
"Nobody's talking about trying to prevent people from voting," Olson said. "It's just being sure that we respect the constitutional provisions of what is required to vote and maintain that integrity."