It’s Minnesota budget forecast day; you’re forgiven if you’re reading this from between the fingers over your eyes. A $2 billion deficit? $3 billion? (And remember, inflation’s only factored for revenues, not expenditures.) MPR’s Tom Scheck doesn’t float numbers, but quotes Republicans saying they plan to protect education and cut health and social service programs. The Dems — who have an outside chance at a veto-proof legislative majority — talk upper-income tax hikes. Gov. Pawlenty’s spokesperson says no way.
Meanwhile, Pawlenty and other pols are shucking their Tom Petters contributions, everyone reports. Most are giving the dough to charity, though the Strib’s Pat Doyle says Pawlenty has to give the disgraced businessman a refund because political committees can only give $50 to worthy causes.
More Petters dough: Norm Coleman looks like the biggest beneficiary of Petters’ largesse ($21,600) while Amy Klobuchar got $9,200, Pawlenty $4,000 and James Oberstar $3,300. Minnesota Independent’s Paul Demko says the Republicans were slow off the draw on the givebacks.
The layoffs begin today at Petters Group Worldwide; 50 pink slips will go out, the Strib’s Liz Fedor writes. Attorney Doug Kelly, the court-appointed receiver, says some businesses will be closed; Polaroid, a recent Petters acquisition, gains the most notice. That company’s officials are desperately trying to reassure customers they’ll stay around. The PiPress’ John Welbes quotes Kelly saying they probably will, and adds Fingerhut and Petters Warehouse Direct to the survival list.
KSTP’s Tom Hauser gives an Al Franken ad accusing national Republicans of distortion an “A-minus.” Franken proves one of the “Angry Al” gesticulations is really him telling a heartwarming story of Paul Wellstone rooting on a son at a cross-country meet. WCCO’s Pat Kessler agrees. It’s a good day for Dems on KSTP; Hauser also bestows an “A-minus” on an attack ad aimed at Michele Bachmann.
AP’s Brian Bakst says John McCain and Barack Obama have spent $3 million on 6,000 Minnesota campaign ads so far this year. Only 24 days to go! McCain has outspent Obama, but the Democrat started blowing the doors off last Friday; he bought $700,000 worth of ads in a 10-day stretch, compared with McCain’s average $300,000 per week. Obama has emphasized organizing; McCain will be in Lakeville for a rally today, where he may emphasize Bill Ayers.
Related: McCain is surprisingly competitive in an ARG poll of Minnesota released Thursday; he’s down 47 percent to 46 percent, the PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger notes. The poll has a partisan breakdown of 38 percent Democrats and 32 percent Republicans — a narrower gap than recent surveys, but near pre-meltdown norms. There are also 30 percent independents. The sampling error margin is plus/minus 4 percentage points.
It sounds like exit-pollers will be free to roam the earth — well, Minnesota’s earth anyway. The Strib’s James Walsh writes that a judge is ready to enjoin the state from enforcing a newly beefed-up 100-foot exclusion zone outside polling place doors. Judge Michael Davis wants the state and litigious national media companies to work out a compromise. My guess at the result: Don’t block the front door, questioners.
A St. Paul dude arrested with more than 100 pot plants worth $400K says he never sold the stuff; Brian Wiltermuth gives KSTP’s Steve Shaw this great dude-abides quote: “I’m guilty and I will be, like you say, probably serving some time. But I help friends out, I help myself out, and it’s a beautiful thing. I hate to think of it as an ugly bad thing, but it’s an ugly bad thing also.”
Are venture capitalists investing in illegal drugs? The PiPress’ Leslie Brooks Suzukamo calls the investors “upbeat” after attending a local conference. Leveraged deals have gone blooey — did you know there was only one venture-backed IPO in the nation this quarter? — but optimists believe cheap prices help companies buy up venture-funded niches they have to fill.
Related: PiPresser Alison Kaplan looks at all the upscale boutiques opening up and strains not to call their owners insane. There’s talk of “value” and “convenience” and how higher-income shoppers are immune from the crash, but it all feels like whistling past the graveyard.
In an anti-incumbent year, a perennial Supreme Court candidate who says a Christian army must vanquish secular humanists has a shot, Minnesota Independent’s Andy Birkey writes. Tim Tinglestad is the Christian soldier, and even though he only got 22 percent in the September primary (versus incumbent Paul Anderson’s 63 percent), that “i” next to Anderson’s name might not look as good post-crash.
Republican National Convention lawsuits have begun, and MPR’s Laura Yuen offers an in-depth look at how St. Paul’s $10 million insurance policy against claims works. There’s no limit on legal expenses. What insurer was nuts enough to sell a policy like this for only $1.2 million? New York City has racked up $8.2 million — and counting — in 2004 RNC legal costs. One defense lawyer says egregious cases could fall outside the policy, but a colleague says no.
On Thursday, I passed along a story about Mille Lacs leader Melanie Benjamin’s standoff with a tribal assembly that wants to remove her; the charges were unspecified. Today, AP reports Benjamin’s accusers say she faked $21,000 worth of invoices for home improvements and comped herself for $52,000 worth of casino meals and hotel rooms. She denies the charges.
If you want to feel good amid crappy times, read Stribite David Peterson’s tale of an Elko New Market cop who spun his cruiser between a drunken driver and civilians. The drunk was speeding up, to around 60 but somehow miraculously stopped 6 inches short of Officer Steve Malecka’s car. Malecka gets a Medal of Valor; drunken guy blew a .243, by the way — triple the legal limit.
Sixty-eight-year-old Tina Turner rocked out Target Center last night; did you notice better sound? KARE says about 75 percent of a $1 million acoustical upgrade is done, mostly insulation to keep noise from reflecting. PiPresser Ross Rahaila reports earaches from Turner’s shrieking. If you were there and noticed anything, leave a comment below. This Minneapolis taxpayer wants to know if you got what he paid for!
Nort spews: I’ve ignored recent stories about the demagogic antics of KTLK-FM radio host Chris Baker, whose desperate cries for attention include likening Barack Obama to the Antichrist. But the Strib’s Michael Rand passes along a press release from Magic Johnson, ripping Baker for saying Johnson faked having AIDS. (Hat tip: Michael Brodkorb.) More from the Strib here.