Daily Glean: A $6 billion state deficit?

It’s Budget Deficit Day, and it’s going to be a disaster. The Strib’s Pat Lopez says the number could be as high as $6 billion, which would be 17 percent of the current budget. Legislators say you can’t tax or cut your way out of that. DFLer Tom Bakk agrees with Republicans that health care will get slammed, while DFLer Larry Pogemiller again singles out economic development programs, MPR’s Tim Pugmire reports. (MinnPost coverage here.)

How tough to plug the budget hole? Lopez reels off these options: increase cig taxes another 75 cents ($300 million); cut everything except K-12 education 17 percent ($1.8 billion). Pawlenty has claimed a 1 percent hike in Minnesota’s top income tax rate raises $300 million. You’re not even halfway to $5 billion, much less $6 billion. The c-word — casinos — is being heard.

Just say no to budget help? The dire numbers make Pawlenty’s sniffing about not wanting federal money look kind of ridiculous; Strib editorialists give the guv a love tap, but the PiPress applauds.

State fire sale: The PiPress’ Bill Salisbury says two Republicans want to sell off the airport and create a scholarships endowment. DFLers say that will raise costs and lower opportunity in the long run. Salisbury also relays a sensible bipartisan proposal to move the November forecast to September so voters get a better sense of the hard choices their picks would face.

The recount? Oh, that little thing. The PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger and Jason Hoppin say judging 6,000 challenges could take a month; at least the Franken camp is pulling back 633, with more promised. The Democrat is down 316 votes or up 22, depending on who’s counting. He lost a net 36 votes (PiPress) or “as many as 46” (Strib) because of 133 unaccounted Minneapolis ballots. The city says “several mistakes were made” and will resume the hunt for the lost votes today. (MinnPost coverage here.)

More recount: Mark Zdechlik talks recount fundraising. The effort could cost each campaign up to $5 million. The Federal Elections Commission treats it as a new election, meaning candidates can raise up to $2,300 from individuals even if donors gave that amount pre-Nov. 4. WCCO’s Esme Murphy shows Scott County challengers getting pissy.

As City Pages’ Kevin Hoffman distills, ex-Minnesota U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose was a bad manager and a national security threat. The Strib’s Randy Furst says Justice Department investigators ruled Paulose retaliated against a subordinate who asked her to not to leave terrorism-related documents on her desktop and bookcase. The victim gets back pay and more; the PiPress’ David Hanners notes that a settlement means the report won’t be made public. Paulose, who somehow still works at DoJ, isn’t talking.

More Paulose: Katherine Kersten — last seen demanding apologies for 35W blame — is no doubt writing her own mea culpa. Nick Coleman chortles.

I’m not quite sure how this works, but one bankrupt Tom Petters company is lending money to another. The PiPress’ Nicole Garrison-Sprenger says Sun Country Airlines will get operating financing from Elite Landings. Other Petters creditors boo, but the bankruptcy judge says yes. The airline will pay Elite 10 percent interest. The Strib’s Liz Fedor writes that Elite got money back from canceling planes. Sun Country execs, waiting to get cash from holiday fliers, plan payback by April.

St Paul’s City Council voted down a tax on plastic bags, the PiPress’ Dave Orrick reports. Council Member Russ Stark wanted to lobby the state for the enviro-encourager; Seattle has just heaped a 20-cent tax on the oil-based sacks. Stark also wanted to raise downtown parking taxes a quarter. Both measures died on a tie vote. The Strib’s Chris Havens says the city needs legislators’ OK to keep using its sales tax to plug budget deficits.

Happy news: The Coldwater Creek site will be cleared of buildings and restored, the PiPress’ Dennis Lien writes. The 27-acre Minneapolis site, sacred to American Indians, will be done by late 2010, the Strib’s Tom Meersman says. The parcel by Hwy. 55 housed the Bureau of Mines. It will be managed by the National Park Service; the Fish and Wildlife Service now controls it.

Staggering: Local Red Cross donations were 70 percent under budget in from July to October, forcing the charity to lay off 15 workers, keep vacant 10 positions, and end a program that takes the elderly to doctors’ appointments, the Strib’s Mary Lynn Smith notes. The organization has cut its 2009 budget from $10 million to $7 million.

In light of that previous item, news that Comcast will raise cable prices 2.9 percent doesn’t seem so bad. The PiPress’ Leslie Brooks Suzukamo reports that’s an average figure that will hit in January. One analyst notes the cable biz is practically recession-proof. I guess we’ll see.

UnitedHealth’s foundation ranks Minnesota the fourth-healthiest state, which sounds pretty good until you consider we’d been No. 1 four times running. The Strib’s Josephine Marcotty says we were undone by child poverty and health-spending cuts. The PiPress has a charticle of the factors. We’re 43rd in per-capita public health spending, 31st in immunizations and 24th in obesity. All of those problems are worsening. But we live the longest and smoke the fifth-least.

As part of the Strib’s ongoing food series, Chris Serres profiles Cargill, which he notes has revenues bigger than two-thirds of the world’s countries and an outsized influence on what we eat.

Amid news that the Des Moines Register has laid off the only front-page political cartoonist in the nation, the Twin Cities Daily Planet’s Lydia Howell notes ex-PiPress and Strib cartoonist Kirk Anderson has a new book out. It’s a compendium of his awesome “Banana Republic” strips, one of the most piercing encapsulations of the Bush Era anywhere. The Strib unwisely cut Anderson a year or so ago. He has a speaking deal at MayDay books on Saturday.

Nort spews: The Wild shut out St. Louis at home 4-0 to move into first place. (And they still have a game in hand over the Canucks!) Sore Loser here. A local court temporarily unsuspended the Williams Wall, but that could end today. In Twins news, free-agent third basemen Casey Blake wants a three-year, $18 million deal, and Ron Gardenhire says Delmon Young shouldn’t be a starting outfielder. The Wolves lost to Orlando 100-89; Britt Robson recaps.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/04/2008 - 01:01 pm.

    (1) If Tim Pawlenty is so rigidly ideological that he would refuse the federal aid that helps provide health care and other basic necessities to our neediest citizens, can the legislature go around him to the U.S. Congress and ask that funds be directed to the legislature for allocation at its discretion???

    (2) The State does not spend a penny on the Airport. It is an entirely self-supporting quasi-public agency operated and staffed by aviation professionals. Privatizing it would save naught and would lead to bottom-line profit-seeking instead of its current concentration on safety and service.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/04/2008 - 04:40 pm.

    The place to make significant cuts without suffering a loss of services is in labor costs.

    How about we start by calling the legislature to session every other year? That alone would save hundreds of millions.

    We should absolutely be divesting the public of the responsibility to fund and maintain pensions.

    PERA is an anachronism. It is time for government to follow the rest of the country’s employers and provide matching payments into individual retirement accounts.

    We should also pare back “government only” paid holidays and put them in line with the private sector.

    Salary increases will have to be sacrificed. I know many (myself included) who haven’t seen an increase at all this year, and haven’t seen a 3% increase in more than five years.

    Non-critical positions will have to be pared down to 32 hours a week.

    Lastly, layoffs are called for.

    Start here and then let’s see what the deficit looks like.

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