It’s Final Recount Day! Probably not. What started with 32 Minneapolis ballots “lost” in a car ends with 133 Minneapolis ballots really lost. The Strib’s Mike Kaszuba and Bob von Sternberg write that the city got a state waiver to keep the recount open; the PiPress’ Dave Orrick and Jason Hoppin say it’s open-ended. If a missing envelope is not found, MPR’s Mark Zdechlik says the state Canvass Board could decide to use the higher machine count.
More on the lost ballots: Observers tell the PiPress nothing funky happened at the precinct polling site, a church; Coleman’s camp issues a ridiculous fatwa complaining about a holy site being forensically searched.
The recount numbers: With 99 percent of ballots recounted statewide and only one day to go, Coleman’s lead is 205, but there are still more than 5,000 challenges, even after each campaign withdrew about 650. Coleman has challenged about 100 votes more. Franken’s campaign claims their guy is up by 10, if you allocate all challenges by the election judge’s initial call, but that doesn’t include a net 36-vote loss from the missing Minneapolis envelope.
Recount finance: Franken has raised $2.1 million for the recount; Coleman $1.9 million. MPR’s Tom Scheck notes the candidates are spending twice as much as they thought.
As the $5.5 billion state budget deficit (with inflation) makes its debut, there’s lots of talk of reinventing government, which always goes well with a gun to your head. The PiPress’ Bill Salisbury and Rachel Stassen-Berger say Gov. Pawlenty “immediately” ruled out raising taxes; DFLers claim they’ll look at cuts before revenue-raising. The Strib’s Pat Lopez indicates education is on the table as spending is built from “zero on up.” MPR’s Tim Pugmire says spending rose faster than expected on health care.
Deficit math: Salisbury and Stassen-Berger note revenues are projected to fall $3.3 billion; the PiPress’ Julie Forster says the forecasting model projects 2009 unemployment topping 8 percent. That’s 2 points above the current rate, which translates into 53,000 newly unemployed, or 76,000 total in the current slump. Old-timers can be reassured that’s not as bad as the 100,000 jobs lost in the early ’80s, but it’s worse than the 55,000 positions that disappeared post-9/11.
A bi-optional solution: Do most Minnesotans think this can be done without raising revenue and cutting spending? Strib cartoonist Steve Sack has it right (second panel); Strib editorialists are incredibly mushy about advocating reality. Since both sides support cuts, “keeping options open” means taxing, too.
How the cuts will fall: MPR’s Tim Post says teachers and programs will likely be cut because state aid won’t match inflation. MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill reports that enviro groups worry the state will cut general fund spending now that they have a sales tax slice; negotiators pinkie-swear they won’t touch long-term programs. Church leaders remind us that cuts hit the poorest hardest; Forum Communications notes the Supreme Court chief justice took the “rare” step of lobbying against court cuts.
By the way, leaders will meet today to begin closing a $426 million deficit in the current biennium; Pawlenty can “unallot” $271 million on his own.
The PiPress’ City Hall Scoop reports that St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is running for re-election next year. No, this doesn’t take him out of the 2010 guv’s race.
Besieged auto dealer Denny Hecker ran his car into a utility pole Wednesday night; no toxicology reports are available, the PiPress’ Mara Gottfried writes. Hecker is in fair condition, and a spokesman tells WCCO no alcohol was involved. Hecker knocked out power to a neighborhood. WCCO says the car ran down an embankment and flipped over.
The Un-Hecker? The Business Journal’s John Vomhof Jr. reports that Paul Walser will acquire a Brooklyn Center Hyundai dealership and add a Coon Rapids Nissan dealership. How is this being pulled off during the automotive Depression? Both brands are selling more in Minnesota in ’08, but there’s not much about how Walser has stayed strong while others have faltered. That’s a good follow-up.
Is Tom Petters crazy? City Pages’ Erin Carlyle notes that federal prosecutors want the disgraced financier’s lawyers to tell them if he will plead insanity to 20 fraud-related charges.
On the news Wednesday that a judge would let one bankrupt Petters company lend money to another, the PiPress’ Nicole Garrison-Sprenger reports that Sun Country workers will be back to full pay in January. They’ve floated the company up to 30 percent of their comp until passengers pay for holiday tickets.
The PiPress’ Christopher Snowbeck notes a crazy rush to refi as 30-year mortgage rates drop to 5.53 percent.
Nort Spews: The Williams Wall is in federal court today to decide if suspensions will stick. Do we really want the Diuretic Duo eligible for the Lions and not a possible playoff game? Via the Business Journal, Forbes ranks the Timberwolves as the NBA’s 23rd most valuable; you mean there are six teams worth less? What a crummy league right now.