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Daily Glean: The state budget deal in 120 seconds

By David Brauer | Monday, May 19, 2008 In Monday’s local news roundup, all the budget-deal news that fits in our space. Plus, the voters favor Norm Coleman, but Nick Coleman has a surprising near-endorsement.

Gov. Pawlenty and top legislators are showing teeth this morning, but that’s because every media outlet features them chortling about Sunday’s session-ending agreement frenzy. Both sides get happy talk for the campaign trail. Let’s run down what they did:

Capped property taxes — sort of. A 3.9 percent cap has major exceptions for “essential” police/fire services — the biggest local budget category, usually. The PiPress’s Bill Salisbury says 17 counties qualify for a foreclosure-spending exemption. Future local budget manipulations should provide good copy. Cities get $42 million in cap-massaging relief; counties get $22 million. Also 73,000 individuals with high property taxes and lower incomes get $25 million, including 10,000 who get no current relief, MPR reports.

More property-tax limits: Both dailies say the caps will save taxpayers $78.5 million next year, but the Strib’s Mark Brunswick also notes projected 2009 property tax increases will fall about $150 million statewide. “The tax cap will hurt,” says Forum Newspapers. So what won’t get done in your locality?  Stay tuned for the local, local, local follow-ups.

Cut health programs while expanding MinnCare. Brunswick says $170 million is axed from health and human services next year and $206 million in the following biennium. Salisbury says hospital reimbursements will be reduced. Nursing homes get a 4 percent bump, and Minnesota Care is expanded by 12,000 people. Everyone holds out hope state health care costs will plunge 15 percent by 2015.

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Gave schools a $51-per-pupil hike that probably doesn’t erase next year’s deficits. Salisbury says it’s about a 1 percent increase. The PiPress’s Political Animal blog has a nice chart of how much east-metro districts get. For example, Lakeville — which faces a $1.1 million deficit next year, the Strib noted last week — will get $667,000 in Sunday’s deal.

Threw $70 million at the Central Corridor light-rail train and $20 million at Vermillion State Park. The Strib says light-rail’s U-area route problems aren’t settled; Met Council chair Peter Bell tells the PiPress that unreleased data will show the at-grade Washington Avenue line superior. PiPress notes that Vermillion would be the first new state park in 30 years; the Strib says 40 years. There’s also $10 million for the Minneapolis Vets home.

Gave the Mall of America a subsidy the owners didn’t favor. Salisbury says the plan to limit ramp-funding taxation to Bloomington passed; the Strib’s Pat Doyle says Bloomington can raise sales taxes up to 1 percent. Mall owners are “uncertain” about the plan, Doyle adds, but they’re stuck for now. Cities statewide wouldn’t lose fiscal-disparities aid as a result, but a Hennepin County tax subsidy would be extended three years.

Cut higher-ed and courts. Some seed-corn-eating here: Colleges get $21.7 million less. Expect higher tuition? No one says. The courts will take a $5.5 million cut, which Brunswick says “could result in shorter hours and reduced days for district courts.” Given existing speed-of-justice problems — already a cost driver — this should merit a follow-up story.

Finalized an eight-citizen, four-legislator council to direct habitat spending, should this fall’s sales-tax-hiking constitutional amendment pass.

Made the next biennium’s deficit worse?  Brunswick says the state still faces a $1 billion to $2 billion deficit in 2009-11; lawmakers spend down $500 million in existing reserves to get this year’s deal done, but $500 million remains, a Strib editorial says.

The PiPress details the 12 legislators who won’t be around to fix next session’s problems. Eight Republicans and four DFLers are retiring. Given that Republicans are in the minority, their higher retiree numbers make this year’s election even tougher.

Still more political news: Norm Coleman bests Al Franken 51-44 in the latest Strib Minnesota Poll. Haven’t talked to any DFLers, but I’ll bet they’re relieved the margin is this close. Coleman is up on possible returnee Mike Ciresi by 8, and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer by 15. Coleman’s job approval is only 45 percent, but a plurality of independents rate him an “independent thinker.” Twenty-six percent of independents say Franken’s tax troubles make them less likely to vote for him; 67 percent don’t care.

Nick Coleman endorses Jesse Ventura for U.S. Senate. Well, almost. Ventura “hates the heavy lifting of government” but is principled about the constitution and farsightedly anti-war, Coleman notes. Plus, Ventura will keep Nick in columns once the Carol Molnau era ends.

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Today’s talker: How’d you like to be the sheriff’s deputy who warned a family not to go to church? This is a continuation of the weekend story about a Todd County church’s restraining order banning a family with an autistic son. The church claims the 225-pound son can’t control himself during services. Yesterday, the deputy waited at the family’s driveway to warn them off, the Strib’s Lora Pabst reports; they went to another church. WCCO’s interview with the mom is here.

WCCO reports that American Indian protests against the state’s 150th anniversary “turned violent.” Well, one protester carrying a noose whacked a state trooper on the head; three people were arrested. Demonstrators want more acknowledgment of the state’s role in genocide against American Indians.

Ever daydreamed of owning your own wind turbine, or at least a piece of one? The Twin Cities Daily Planet has an interesting piece on what it takes. First, find 599 other households to buy an efficient commercial-grade set-up. Then — no surprise to lefties — you run smack dab into federal tax incentives that favor corporations, not individuals.

Gleaning Up, Part One: An April 29 Glean noted a study pegging Minnesota’s uninsured rate at 10 percent — higher than state’s 7 percent figure. “Someone, reconcile!” I demanded. U prof Michael Davern — who worked on both surveys — say that there’s no real disparity; the surveys measure different timeframes, for example. He advises using the state’s lower figure. Davern also says another finding — that 188,700 fewer Minnesotans had private-sector health insurance in 2005 versus 2001 — is not statistically significant.

Gleaning Up, Part Two: On Thursday, I wrote that “GOP blogger Michael Brodkorb has twice promised that video of DFL harassment, but hasn’t delivered.” Brodkorb objected, saying he never made such promises. He’s right. A more accurate version: “Brodkorb has twice claimed video of DFL harassment exists, but neither has surfaced.”

Nort spews: The Twins, headed toward their destiny, sunk below .500 in Denver. However, the oft-ignored Lynx won impressively in their home debut, beating the powerful Detroit Shock 84-70. The Detroit papers don’t send reporters on the road, so there’s no Sore Loser.