The stupid Kabuki dance at the Capitol continues, with Gov. Pawlenty ripping DFLers for raising taxes, DFLers ripping him for borrowing so much money, Pawlenty saying, “Fine, if you don’t want me to borrow, propose more cuts,” and no one asking the governor how he would fill the credit-card hole he knew was phony. That’s my distillation of yesterday’s reports from the PiPress’ Bill Salisbury and Strib’s Pat Lopez, anyway.
Speaking of borrowing fakery: MPR’s Tim Pugmire and Tom Scheck note the House rejected the guv’s $1 billion borrowing 130-2. That means a lot of Republicans agreed with a lot of DFLers. So given the governor’s claims that DFL tax hikes are pipe dreams, can the governor now provide his own realistic proposal?
Meanwhile, the House approved its own rosy scenario by promising future property tax relief but holding current education spending flat. The Strib’s Norm Draper quotes Republicans offering their own “kick-the-can-down-the-road” criticism, and wondering why teacher’s unions aren’t punishing their favored party. The guv has proposed an click-your-heels increase, the Senate a cut.
By the way: The House voted 69-62 to extend state employee health insurance to same-sex partners beginning in 2012, the MPR duo adds. Equality delayed, but maybe we won’t have leaders who support discrimination by then. Meanwhile, anti-gay graffiti springs up all over Hamline, Minnesota Independent’s Andy Birkey reports.
Well, that puts a face on it: the Strib labels an attempt to keep secret public employees’ moonlighting pay “The Tubby Smith Act.” Mark Brunswick writes that the bill was spurred by the Minnesota Daily’s attempts to publicize the Gopher basketball coach’s off-court shoe contracts and the like, but would also obscure cops’ off-duty compensation and U researchers’ drug-company contracts.
More ‘Tubby’: The Pawlenty administration reversed long-held policy to obscure disclosure, and some union-backed DFLers are trying to cement the change; I’m pretty sure journalists disagree. A House bill would reveal all outside comp, down to “lawn mowing,” which some say is absurd. A sane standard might be if the employer asks for the info, the public gets to see it. Although that’s a real potential loophole if employers suddenly turn shy.
Oh, great: Another damaged DFLer running for governor. Matt Entenza, who dropped out of the ’06 Attorney General’s race after ham-handedly commissioning dirt-digging on Mike Hatch, will try to capture the golden ring this time around, AP’s Brian Bakst writes. The ex-House Speaker Minority Leader, who founded the think tank Minnesota 2020 in part to scrub off the taint, has lefty cred and a rich wife. Entenza might not abide by the party endorsement.
Salisbury notes Senate DFLers chose between transit and regressive taxes: They want a $9 million property tax hike to help close a $75 million Metro Transit operating deficit the Senate helped widen. TPaw says no, and House DFLers have other ideas. Slumping car taxes have also opened up the hole. The Strib’s Pat Lopez says tax hikes are a given, but class sizes might be smaller.
No surprise: Forum Communications’ Don Davis says as state agency budgets are cut, fees are rising. The Senate has the Pollution Control Agency losing 19 percent (!) of its dough, while the DNR loses 5 percent; no actual dollar amounts are listed. To compensate, there will be $5 million in fee hikes, including $2.4 million in mining permit payments. There’s a good list of other bill details.
No shock here: Five Minnesota Supreme Court justices will rule on the recount, the Strib’s Kevin Duchschere notes. The two Canvassing Board justices, Eric Magnuson and G. Barry Anderson, have consistently recused themselves, but three donors to Norm Coleman or his opponents will retain their votes. (They all donated before being elevated to the court.) Even the state DFL Party chair, himself a lawyer, sees no problem with Christopher Dietzen’s $500 to Norm’s Senate campaigns.
WCCO Capitol guy Pat Kessler says legislators might add more medical conditions to the national-record 60 insurance companies must cover. That would help a small but incredibly needy group of victims — in one case Kessler cites, a woman pays $1,700 a week for medication. As you might expect, insurance industry experts contend premiums would jump, by perhaps 20 percent.
The bulk of my blogging week has been spent chronicling the media blowback over an alleged attempted Edina child abduction; the Strib’s Lora Pabst reports a since-released suspect had a roll of duct tape, condoms and a paintball gun in his car. The Faribault driver was not charged, and told authorities he really was lost. Fox9 paraphrases police noting all the car items “could have been used in a child abduction.” Or not. PiPress mom Molly Millett applauds Fox9’s putative faux drive-by luring.
Budget busting busted: Elko New Market, which cut its cops in a tax-slicing measure but neglected to have a substitute agreement in place, hastily reinstated the local force yesterday, the Strib’s Katie Humphries says the vote was unanimous, and includes reviews for some once-and-future officers.
The Strib’s Chris Havens says a spurned St. Paul human rights department commissioner candidate is suing the city. Edward McDonald finished third in a ranking, but was passed over for a Chris Coleman aide when the top two candidates declined. McDonald knows something about suing; he beat the city out of $84,500 five years ago in a whistleblower suit. Ironically, he was blowing the whistle on too few minority/women contractors, which was later confirmed by audit.
Lake City defends itself against trying to poach a fire-damaged meat processor from recently evacuated St. Charles, the Red Wing Republican Eagle’s Jon Swedien reports. The city’s economic development authority didn’t approach North Star Foods, but a member acting on his own did; the member says he was only expressing concern. However, he also mentioned a Lake City site.
TCF Bank’s loud rejection of TARP funds turns out to be good business; the Strib’s Chris Serres says bank deposits surged $1 billion the last quarter, in part because customers felt the bank was safe. One expert calls the fed-bashing “tea-bag” marketing, which must please conservative anti-tax bank leader Bill Cooper. However, bank income fell 44 percent in part because people drawing fewer overdraw charges. Ah, the perils of personal responsibility.
The Strib, which has been all over the Petters story, has a terrific Jennifer Bjorhus piece on Polaroid’s $10 million photo collection, now in bankruptcy limbo. The 16,000 photos, from Ansel Adams, William Wegman, celebrities, and others are one-of-a-kind; Bjorhus notes Polaroid invented instant photography “which leaves no negatives for copies.” It’s an awful time to market an art collection, but this one sounds awfully cool.
“SaveWCAL” makes a Wall Street Journal sidebar, and Minnesota Independent’s Chris Steller notes the indefatigable sale opponents filed a Minnesota Court of Appeals brief Thursday. A lower court approved St. Olaf’s sale of the once-classical station to MPR (it’s now The Current), but the renegade Oles says a charitable trust means donors must agree. “Everybody wants to just move on,” laments one Olaf administrator. Obviously, not everyone.