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Daily Glean: Five billion budget whacks

Hospitals prepare to get slammed as Gov. Pawlenty says where he’ll cut. Also: Tom Petters, extorted!

It’s the day we find out how Gov. Pawlenty will whack the 2009-10 budget, but there’s a surprising lack of pre-release leaks. On MPR Monday, the governor proposed a 4 percent hike in health and human services. Yes, polemicists, it really is a cut that will reduce services or eligibility since 19 percent is needed to keep up. The PiPress’ Bill Salisbury says the governor will cut higher ed, then try to install a tuition cap. The results of that squeeze are not spelled out.

Among Wednesday’s stories: how hospitals will get slammed. Two reports look at the effects of the governor’s recent, smaller current-biennium cuts. MPR’s Lorna Benson says a $28 million reduction means fewer residency programs that train new docs. Teaching hospitals need subsidies because training isn’t cheap and residents see fewer patients. Hopefully, we can get by with fewer new docs. Meanwhile, the Strib’s Chen May Yee reports that Hennepin County Medical Center has cut 3 percent of its positions (100 overall) and stopped building projects.

Related: Fox9 notes DFLers will propose a medical plan that covers all kids; Pawlenty agrees in principle, but that’s no guarantee anything will happen and there are no cost estimates yet. New Politics in Minnesota scribe Britt Robson makes the case that Pawlenty’s decade-long budget gimmicks fomented the current crisis; Robson’s new boss, Sarah Janecek, disagrees.

Slick lawyer; crummy evidence. The U.S. Senate election contest began, but the folksy words of Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg were drowned out by the ex-senator’s ill-copied challenged ballots. Produce originals, demanded the court (after ruling earlier that the originals would not be shipped en masse to St. Paul). MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki has a good blow-by-blow. The Coleman folks have no fallback point while they await ballot delivery, so the trial may ground to a halt, the PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger writes. (MinnPost coverage here.)

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Hey, it turns out Tom Petters was being extorted! Legally, that is. The Strib’s Dan Browning says court-appointed receiver Doug Kelley claims an Illinois investment group charged Petters “80 percent interest on a $146 million loan and 362.1 percent on a $12 million loan.” The investors respond that these were “very, very short-term loans” with high fees. The group is in court today to block Kelley from controlling assets it wants.

Related: Restaurateur Dean Vlahos’ $11 million Deephaven mansion was foreclosed upon; it’s Petters fallout, the Strib’s Jon Tevlin reports. Vlahos, of Redstone Grill fame, isn’t a co-conspirator, but a duped investor who claims T-Pet owes him $16 million. Vlahos and his estranged wife are cushioned by two Florida properties they still own and are trying to sell for $33 million.

Fame elevates a suspected murder-suicide-arson to the front page. The Strib’s Joy Powell and Rohan Preston get the scoop that a daughter of the prominent Givens family was killed, allegedly by an estranged boyfriend who then set fire to his apartment. Brittany Givens-Copeland may have gone to Adam Williams’ place to break up with him. Givens-Copeland leaves behind a 4-month-old baby; Williams was not the father.

Oh, ugh — the local Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found trace elements of mercury in processed foods, the Strib’s Matt McKinney reports. Items include Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, Yoplait Strawberry yogurt, Market Pantry Grape Jelly and Coca-Cola. Amounts are much, much smaller than in fish, but they shouldn’t be there at all. IATP blamed mercury-laced soda used to manufacture high fructose corn syrup; manufacturers say they’ve changed the process, but that doesn’t appear to be completely true.

I’d lay off the corn syrup anyway, but obesity is apparently contagious, Fox9 contends. The station quotes a Hennepin County bariatric surgeon saying an airborne virus called Adenovirus-36 or AD-36 turns stem cells into fat cells. You don’t catch it from fat people; by the time they’re obese, they’re no longer contagious. Many medical pros are skeptical how big a deal this is. Where’s the vaccine?

Six years from now, Hispanics will top blacks as Minnesota’s largest minority group, the Strib’s David Peterson reports. A few years ago, this was predicted to happen in 2025, but the new estimate is 2015. A changing immigration rate is the reason, though it’s unclear whether the deepcession’s slowing of Latino in-migration will push the trendline back again.

The PiPress is never shy about a good crime yarn, and Emily Gurnon has an odd one, about a serial personal-care shoplifter known as “Body Wash Guy.” He’s blamed for 40 grand worth of thefts from a St. Paul CVS but — wait for it — made clean getaways. It’s not exactly a testament to the company’s loss-prevention strategy.

Tax-filing season has opened, and MPR’s Jessica Mador profiles AccountAbility Minnesota, a nonprofit that charges just $30 for refund-anticipation loans. That’s a pittance, compared with what for-profits charge. They’ve saved low-income folks $300,000 over the year, and also help clients do their taxes for free. I was curious whether the group is privately or publicly funded, but it sure seems like a good program to support the working poor. Scott Russell has written about AccountAbility in MinnPost as well.

Carl Eller will likely appeal his conviction for assaulting a police officer and refusing a sobriety test, the Strib’s Rochelle Olson reports. A deal already dropped several charges, but a judge found the ex-Vike guilty on the two counts. My favorite line is from Emily Gurnon’s PiPress story: Eller said his case “was pursued more harshly than those involving professional athletes in similar circumstances.” I know that’s a large cohort, but the tranche should probably include non-pros.

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The Metropolitan Airports Commissioners began January like lions but ended like lambs as they approved a jobs-and-flights deal with Delta yesterday. Delta gave initial demands a take-it-or-leave it, commissioners voted 9-1 to take it, the PiPress’ John Welbes reports. They’ll be back in a couple of years, says the dissenter. Any local reductions below a 10,000-flight floor must be proportional to systemwide cuts.

Nort spews: The Wolves have progressed to where they can play lamely on road and beat teams whose big star just got injured. The 90-83 triumph over the Michael Redd-less Milwaukee Bucks gets Minnesota to 16-27. Sore Loser here.