The Vikings stadium bill gets its first hearing today in a Senate committee. The committee is expected to take quick action on the bill.
The hearing comes as MPR reports that individuals charities are questioning the rosy numbers that are being promised as a result of electronic pull-tabs.
MPR has a look at GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers and his reluctance to take a position on the stadium.
Stadium opponents in Ramsey County are still pushing for a referendum request.
Under the Dome
GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem and DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk will be on MPR's The Daily Circuit at 11am.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved the Voter ID constitutional amendment.
Lawmakers and students are weighing the costs of college maintenance and construction.
GOP Rep. Mark Buesgens is proposing to use Legacy money to restore the State Capitol. Gov. Dayton told reporters on Monday that he prefers using money from the bonding bill for the restoration.
DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina and GOP Rep. Pat Garofalo spar over taxes and spending.
Republicans are pushing a 25 cent transit fare hike.
Bills to disclose malpractice data gets scaled back.
The bill that would keep the state parks open in the event of a government shutdown is headed for a Senate vote.
A Senate committee approves legislation that would raise fishing and hunting license fees.
AP says barbers and beauticians get snippy over striped poles.
Legislators are losing their taste for a wellness campaign.
The I-35W bridge engineer will lead the Stillwater bridge project.
A northern Minnesota lawmaker wants quicker approval for a Magnetation plant.
Stocks rallied on Tuesday.
15 of 19 banks pass the Federal Reserve's stress test.
College students push for a freeze on student loan rates. GOP Rep. John Kline said it would "be a disservice to the taxpayers."
Race for President
Rick Santorum swept Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday. Mitt Romney placed third in both states.
Despite the setback, Romney maintains that he picked up more delegates.
President Obama's campaign manager plays the underdog card in a fundraising e-mail.
Mr. Obama's polls are on a roller coaster.
Obama's super PAC raised just $2 million.
Acknowledging difficulties, the AFL-CIO endorsed Obama.
Gov. Dayton sent a letter to members of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee urging them to approve a Vikings stadium bill. The committee is the first stop for the bill and it isn't certain whether the bill will make it through committee. Dayton reminded lawmakers that the financing from the electronic pull-tab is solid despite reports otherwise.
"I believe it is sound, reliable and sufficient to finance the state's share of this project," Dayton wrote. "Anyone who says otherwise is speaking without my authorization and is seriously misrepresenting my position. Futhermore, everyone trying to dismantle this proposal, without offering a better one, is clearly trying to defeat this bill"
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chair Ted Mondale and Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley urged the committee to pass the bill. He said the Metrodome has outlived its usefulness.
"It's the smallest stadium in the league," Bagley said. "It will no longer sustain an NFL team. We're at the bottom of the NFL in stadium revenues and fan experience."
Several business and labor leaders also signaled their support for the bill.
Mondale told the committee that state's $398 million contribution will be returned by taxes from player salaries, Vikings employees, other teams and sales taxes from the games.
"The state payback in gross dollars over a 33 year period of time would be $450 million more that the state would get back than the state would put in on this particular project."
But several members expressed skepticism about those numbers. Sen. Roger Chamberlain cited studies that said sports stadiums don't generate the expected return on investment.
"I want a stadium, I want you guys to stay here but I think the impact and the return to the state has proven to be zero."
Other critics, including a lobbyist for the Minnesota Family Council, said expanding electronic gambling is bad public policy.
"We're going to build a stadium to a significant degrees on the backs of problem gamblers," Prichard said. "In fact, the state will have a vested interst in having more people become addicted to and spend more money gambling over a 30 year period in order to pay off the bonds."
It isn't certain whether the committee will approve the bill. Bipartisan supporters of the stadium were busy working legislators before the committee started.
Here's Dayton's letter:
Posted at 3:00 PM on March 14, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
First District Congressional candidate Allen Quist says the new federal health care law will mean married couples will pay more for insurance.
Quist, who is competing for the chance to unseat DFL Rep. Tim Walz, illustrated his point during a speech at the Le Sueur County Republican Convention on March 10.
Take a 60 year old couple making $60,000 who buys their own insurance, Quist said.
"You will pay $10,425 more for your insurance than if you live together unmarried," Quist said during the March 10 event.
Quist's scenario is hypothetical, but it accurately illustrates a wrinkle in the new health care law.
Quist is talking about the new federal mandate that people have insurance. By 2014, those who can't get affordable coverage from their employer, Medicare or Medicaid can buy insurance through new exchanges set up by the states.
Some people can't afford pricey health care, so the federal government is offering a tax credit to help them cover the cost. People making between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level are eligible for the credit, and they can either get the money in advance to pay for insurance, or they can pay up front and get reimbursed when filing their income tax return.
Things get tricky, though, if a married couple claims the tax credit, said Robert Field, a health care policy and law expert at Drexel University.
"You would be eligible for a subsidy at a higher income if it's a joint income, but it wouldn't be as beneficial as if you were each buying a separate individual policy," he said.
Quist's hypothetical example is drawn from a Heritage Foundation report: a 60-year old married couple making $60,000 annually would be at the very top of the eligibility limits and would have to cover nearly all its health care costs.
Whether it costs the couple precisely $10,425 depends on a number of variables. For instance, if that couple had two children at home, they'd still get a sizable tax credit. Government support changes depending on a couple's age and how much health care costs in their region, too.
It's worth pointing out that Quist's underlying point that the bill will discourage marriage is a matter of opinion.
Field says the bill wasn't designed to keep people from marrying. Married couples who file taxes jointly face the same issue when it comes to other tax credits.
"I strongly doubt that this was intentional," Field said. "It's obviously a very complicated law."
Quist's numbers may not be precise, but it's true that under the new law eligible married couples will get less government assistance to pay for health care coverage.
Quist's claim earns an accurate from PoliGraph.
Allen Quist, speech to Le Sueur County Republican Convention, March 10, 2012
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Questions about Health insurance Subsidies, accessed March 13, 2012
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Health Reform Subsidy Calculator, accessed March 13, 2012
U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee, Uncovering the True Impact of the Obamacare Tax Credits: Increases the Deficit, Expands Welfare through the Tax Code, and Implements a New Marriage Tax Penalty, Oct. 27, 2011
The Heritage Foundation, The New Federal Wedding Tax: How Obamacare Would Dramatically Penalize Marriage, By Robert Rector, January 20, 2010
Phone interview, Allen Quist, March 13, 2012
Phone interview, Robert Field, Drexel University, March 13, 2012
Phone interview, Larry Levitt, The Kaiser Family Foundation, March 14, 2012
Posted at 4:00 PM on March 14, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: Campaign 2012
The non-profit group Americans for Prosperity wants to make this clear: it has not endorsed Lee Byberg for Congress.
Byberg, who is seeking the Republican endorsement to run against 7th District DFL Rep. Collin Peterson, includes Americans for Prosperity under the "Endorsements" section of his website. If you clink on the link, however, it takes you to an empty page.
The national organization, which has an arm in Minnesota, hasn't endorsed Byberg and doesn't make a practice of endorsing any candidates.
Here's what AFP said in a press release:
"Americans for Prosperity does not support or oppose any candidate for public office. Americans for Prosperity educates citizens about economic policy on the state and national level and empowers citizens to be advocates in that process.
Despite multiple attempts by AFP's attorney over several days to contact Byberg's campaign to correct Byberg's claim of endorsement, AFP has received no response."
The press release concludes:
"Americans for Prosperity calls on Mr. Byberg to immediately cease any current or future representations of an AFP endorsement. No candidate should claim an endorsement that has not been given."
Back in 2010, when Byberg was running against Peterson, AFP applauded Byberg for signing the group's "No Climate Tax Pledge," a promise that Byberg would oppose federal climate change legislation if elected to office.
But the group made clear at the end of the press release that it does not endorse candidates.
Byberg's website lists other groups he says have endorsed his candidacy, including the 7th District Republicans and Concerned Women Political Action Committee. But both those endorsements are from his 2010 race.
Calls to Byberg were not returned
Byberg spokesman David Strom e-mailed to say that the endorsement listing is in error, and that the only endorsement the campaign is currently seeking is that of the 7th District Republicans.
WASHINGTON - President Obama signed legislation Wednesday to allow a new bridge over the St. Croix River near Stillwater.
The signing ends a decades-long process to get an exemption from the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to build a replacement for the aging Stillwater Lift Bridge.
"After thirty years of debate and delay, we finally got it done," said DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, in a statement. "This effort is an example of what can get done when people put politics aside and do what is best for our state."
"It finally took Congressional action to allow this project to proceed because of years of frivolous lawsuits and bureaucratic holdups, but I'm pleased we could deliver," said Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the measure's House sponsor. "This legislation does not appropriate a dime; rather it allows a project supported by both states' Departments of Transportation and the majority of local residents to proceed."
MnDOT said earlier this week that construction of the new bridge will begin in 2014 and will take three years to complete.
After negotiations broke down, an attorney for former Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb says they intend to file a lawsuit over his dismissal.
Brodkorb's attorney, Phil Villaume, said he will now begin making preparations to file a lawsuit against the Minnesota Senate in U.S. District Court. The decision came after the secretary of the Minnesota Senate announced today that there won't be any mediation of a complaint Michael Brodkorb filed over his termination last year.
In a news release, Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman said the Senate had refused the request, because Brodkorb had not provided "any factual basis for any dispute over his termination." He said the termination was handled properly.
Brodkorb lost his job as communication director for the Senate Republican caucus in December shortly after Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, resigned as majority leader amid allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a male staffer.
Ludeman's release said that an attorney hired by the Senate had reviewed Brodkorb's complaint and found it was without merit.
"Despite Mr. Brodkorb's efforts to disrupt the work of the Senate in the current legislative session, to distract members of the Senate , to extort a payment from the Senate, and to try his so-called claims in the media, the Senate will not allow that to succeed," Ludeman wrote.
Villaume, said the news release was a "gross misrepresentation" of the siutation. He said both sides were on the verge of an agreement to mediate the dispute, once the Legislative session was over.
"For them to pull these shenanigans at this point in time is nothing less than dealing in bad faith," Villaume said. "Mr. Brodkorb has a legitimate legal claim for money damages arising out of discriminatory acts on the part of the Minnesota Senate in terminating him from his employment."(1 Comments)
Iron Range DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina says its time for the state to honor the memory of the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone at a fitting place in the Capitol. He says he's introducing legislation to commission a bust of the populist DFLer, who died in a 2002 plane crash, to be placed in Minnesota's seat of government.
Wellstone was actually en route to the funeral of Rukavina's father when the plane went down, killing Wellstone, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia, three campaign staffers and the plane's two pilots.
He says the family tie makes it appropriate for him to author the bill. He said this fall will mark a decade since the crash. Rukavina said the state historical society says that's the appropriate time to wait.
It may be longer, of course. Wellstone is a rallying point for the DFL, and the Republican majority in the Legislature may not be eager to honor him.
Rukavina says he's not concerned about that.
"You know, I'm not going to get into politics. I know some very, very conservative Republican people in my district who liked Paul Wellstone, beacuse he could just connect with them, whether they agreed with him or not. That's what I'm hoping happens around here. Paul Wellstone had friends on both sides of the aisle. I mean he wound up being good friends with Orrin Hatch. I know at least in my area of the Iron Range, whether my constituents were Republicans, Democrats, conservatives or liberals, they always felt Paul Wellstone listened to them, connected with them. And that's what I'm hoping happens here with the Republicans in charge of both the House and Senate."
Photo courtesy of Terry Gydesen