Gov. Pawlenty told an audience the state’s budget deficit could swell to $7 billion. KSTP’s Tom Hauser notes Pawlenty’s call for tough choices, but the governor rules out tax hikes … ever. The Strib’s Pat Lopez says Minnesota stands to get $3.5 billion to $4.5 billion from the stimulus bill, which Pawlenty disdains almost as much as tax increases. Strib editorialists have some good stimulus details here. They’re bummed Congress shaded toward the Senate’s lower figure, but pleased about Medicaid help.
More deficit: The PiPress’ Jason Hoppin says the guv will “likely” trim his health cuts to comply with stimulus-bill strings. Politics in Minnesota’s Steve Perry has a good debrief with DFL leaders about why they’re so fuzzy about tax increases. Lopez references the Fed’s unemployment-rate prediction for Minnesota: 7.8 percent, a hair off the all-time peak of 8 percent set in the early-’80s recession. That’s almost 1 percentage point more than the current 6.9 percent rate.
Let the overt threats begin: For the first time I can remember, Vikings officials do not close the door on moving the team to L.A. The Strib’s Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins paraphrase team VP Lester Bagley thusly; Bagley also blasted Gov. Pawlenty, “who hasn’t lifted a finger to engage in a problem-solving discussion to help us on our issue.” (Pawlenty’s poll numbers just ticked up.)
More Vikes: Bagley acknowledged an L.A. group has “periodically” contacted the team through a third party. We should have a pool on just when Bagley announces a formal meeting with the Angelenos.
A cop-assaulting woman had her conviction overturned because she didn’t get a speedy trial, the PiPress’ David Hanners reports. The eight-month delay in Ramsey County — replete with 30 schedulings, cancellations and reschedulings — is a sign of things to come, with big court cuts pending. One public defender likens the case to the bent gusset plate before the I-35W bridge collapsed. Gov. Pawlenty’s appointed chief justice says the court staffing is already 10 percent too light; another double-digit cut might be in the offing.
Call it virtual red-lining: the Strib’s Jim Buchta says Twin Cities minorities have been grossly discriminated against when getting mortgages. A new study says high-income blacks were charged higher interest rates than low-income whites; MPR’s Dan Olson has an excellent rundown of the default-enabling disparity at all income levels. Local mortgage spokesfolk say the underlying federal data are insufficient; credit scores should be added.
More discrimination: The mortgage gap is worst in highly segregated places. And as Olson notes, “The Twin Cities ranks dead last in number of branch banks in minority neighborhoods.”
Not surprisingly, the Coleman and Franken camps formally disagreed about which ballot classes should be counted, the PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger writes. The Uptake’s Noah Kunin provides an eye-melting spreadsheet with the differences here. Coleman said yes to all but three of 19 categories; Franken said no in all but two.
More election contest: Among the circumstances in which Norm said yes and Al said no: absentees where officials placed stickers over the signature line, ones where witnesses didn’t write down their full address, and late-arriving overseas ballots. MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki focuses on the two categories where the combatants agree. On a funny side note, Minnesota Independent’s Chris Steller susses out Coleman quoting the wrong Hubert Humphrey in a recent op-ed.
The PiPress’ Bill Salisbury says Gov. Pawlenty may reverse himself and support some form of excuse-free early voting. He vetoed the idea in 2007; Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is again advocating for the change. People could vote up to 30 days prior at a courthouse; no early tallies would be released. Ballot paperwork would be streamlined and earlier reviews of rejects allowed. KARE’s John Croman has a good in-depth analysis, plus video, here.
More voting: Ritchie would institute automatic registration when getting driver’s licenses; Republicans hate that one because it expands the voting pool. On the flip, Smart Politics’ Eric Ostermeier says ex-SOS Mary Kiffmeyer will push a mandatory-ID-at-the-polls plan, noting its strong public support; the new state rep will bait the DFL with, “What are you afraid of?” (That ID-less voters will be disenfranchised to combat a problem whose existance hasn’t been demonstrated.)
Considering the heat any Denny Hecker story gets, there’s surprisingly low-profile coverage that General Motors has dropped a lawsuit against the embattled auto dealer. The PiPress makes it a business brief; can’t find anything in the Strib. Hecker agreed not to sell Hyundais at his Southview Chevrolet location.
Twin Cities median home-sale prices slid to 2000 levels, the PiPress’ Christopher Snowbeck reports. It’s almost certainly less scary for non-foreclosed homeowners, but January ’09’s median sale price of $155,000 is a 24 percent drop from a year earlier. A whopping 60 percent of sales were lender-arranged.
Although courts admit signatures as evidence, identical graffiti tags can’t be used to aggregate charges into felonies, KSTP’s Tim Sherno reports. Prosecutors who pumped the story are obviously frustrated, but there’s a pretty clear 2006 court ruling saying graffiti analysis isn’t scientific enough.
Lots of pretty pictures of Target Field’s $8 million plaza, via the Strib’s Randy Furst. Target Corp. and the Twins will foot the bill, despite Big Red’s recent layoffs.