Federal help from Washington? Not so fast, says Gov. Pawlenty, according to MPR’s Tim Pugmire. With a $4 billion state budget deficit looming, the guv doesn’t want Medicaid help unless the program is reformed. He’s “gravely concerned” about the broke feds sending borrowed money, writes Forum Communications’ Don Davis. In other words, keep your stimulus away from the states, which will then cut and de-stimulate. (MinnPost coverage here.)
More help-refusing: Perhaps Pawlenty was just acting out; Davis notes T-Paw made far tougher comments to the national media than to local reporters; I don’t suppose 2012 is a factor. Pawlenty is right about eventual inflation from reckless borrowing, but leftblogger Dave Mindeman notes some hypocrisy here. The Strib’s Kevin Diaz also notes the guv’s position on federal Medicare help contradicts an earlier view seeking such support.
Before the $4 billion deficit hits, the state will have a “noteworthy” shortfall in the current biennium, Pawlenty tells the PiPress’ Bill Salisbury. The cagey guv won’t name a figure, but says it won’t be “unmanageable.” He already rattles his saber, warning the DFL Legislature he will unilaterally “unallot” spending if they don’t agree to his plan. Cuts will be announced Thursday, AP reports. In the every-little-bit department, Salisbury notes the Capitol is no longer lit up all night, part of a broader plan to cut energy use.
As for the bigger deficit to come, State Rep. Paul Kohls is proposing a two-year budget freeze, Salisbury reports. Kohls says education spending could inch up but social service and nonprofit support would go way down. Belt-tightening begins at the bottom. Speaking of which, the PiPress’ Brady Gervais and Mary Divine detail cities’ pain here.
Al Franken gained 37 votes on Norm Coleman in a Maplewood precinct where 171 uncounted votes were very belatedly discovered. The PiPress says Coleman forces don’t freak out; “We are sort of past the point in this process where we get excited about stuff like that. We have been through a few of these,” says GOP lawyer Fritz Knaak. But the secretary of state’s office was concerned enough to issue a public call for an explanation, MPR’s Tom Scheck notes. Overall, Coleman’s tacit lead fell 41 votes to 303, excluding 6,003 challenges. (MinnPost coverage here.)
The PiPress piece also notes a big win for Franken; counties will sort rejected absentee ballots into four piles, each based on a legal reason for the turn-down. The State Canvass Board may insist that a “fifth pile” of wrongly rejected ballots be counted in December. For a guy who’s behind, that prospect is good. Example of possible new inclusions: 27 Minneapolis absentee ballots rejected for “election judge error.”
As promised, Tom Petters pleaded not guilty to 20 charges in an alleged $3 billion Ponzi scheme. The Strib’s David Phelps says Petters’ attorney objected to a Feb. 9 trial date as too soon for the complex case; on Tuesday, the lawyer noted he was only now getting access to the evidence. MPR’s Martin Moylan does forensics on the fraud with one of Petters’ duped investors.
The Minneapolis public schools will allow a charter to share space with a city high school, the Strib’s Patrice Relerford reports. North High’s enrollment has crashed — down by more than half in five years — and Dunwoody Academy, a technical school, will fill some of the vacant space. Relerford writes that the charter-city combo is unprecedented, and one wonders if the vo-tech will eventually replace North.
Job cuts abound; the Strib’s Liz Fedor notes employment will fall at Delta, which is cutting its domestic and international flight schedules 3 to 10 percent next year. Executives speak bravely of voluntary reductions but don’t release numbers. And up north, 400 taconite-related jobs went bye-bye indefinitely, MPR’s Bob Kelleher reports. The PiPress’ Gita Sitaramiah says Ford Ranger sales were down 33 percent in November.
Media depression: The Strib’s Neal St. Anthony paints a grim picture of his own paper, which is seeking $20 million in cuts from its unions, and $30 million overall. No word on the newsroom’s share and whether job reductions are a must. My takes are here and here. The PiPress’ Amy Carlson Gustafson notes WCCO-AM laid off two reporters; the station has asked its big names to take a 10 percent pay cut.
Minneapolis’ move to tax and reduce news racks moved smoothly through its first City Council committee, the Strib’s Steve Brandt writes. The goal is to reduce sidewalk blockage and clean out ugly, unkempt boxes. Brandt’s employer registered “multiple objections,” including to the $40-per-box fee, especially when the biggest offenders aren’t the big boys.
U cybersleuths use subpoenas and I.P. addresses to regain their stolen Xbox, Fox9 reports.
Today’s animal story: KARE’s Scott Seroka says the woman who runs a Spring Valley horse refuge is besieged with abandoned equines. Some are “dropped off at her doorstep when she wasn’t home,” and the woman gets three to six calls a day from people wanting to get rid of ponies. The horses are costly to keep, and the refuge has relocated 150 animals this year.
Nort spews: The Gophers men’s hoopsters rack up a highly enjoyable 66-56 win over Virginia in the Big Ten-ACC challenge. I hope we get more than a season out of fine freshman Colton Iverson. It’s fun to see a local big-time team with actual centers and creative point guards. And it takes the edge off the Williams Wall being suspended.