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Pawlenty and Arne Carlson, uh, disagree over budget deficits

PLUS: Expansion for UnitedHealth, an ‘Extreme Makeover’ for St. Paul home and new Kensington Runestone theories.

Tipped that state economists see whopping big deficits as far as their gimlet eyes can see, Gov. Pawlenty, having pretty well exhausted the standard sleight-of-hand shifts and one-time payments is basically calling them all a bunch of Debbie Downers.

MPR’s Tom Scheck reports, “The state department of Management and Budget, reports that the two-year budget starting in July of 2011, is projected to come up $4.4 billion short. Some, like State Economist Tom Stinson, worry the problem will continue. ‘We are unlikely, very unlikely, to grow our way out of the problem,’ Stinson said. Stinson said there are several factors in play. He said a struggling economy, globalization and an aging population that will rely on more government services will keep the state in tough budget times. ‘The problem is more than an accounting problem,’ he said.”

For his part, “Pawlenty said predictions made by the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal staff that the budget shortfall could be a record breaking $7 billion in 2012 and 2013 are overblown. He said those predictions include inflation, which is not factored into budget forecasts, and the restoration of all of the spending he cut unilaterally. He also said paying back a school payment shift all at once, rather than in installments, is unlikely.”

Boyd Huppert at KARE covers Arne Carlson taking several shots at Pawlenty at a panel discussion hosted by the Growth and Justice think tank. Huppert says, “The former governor, known for his centrist views, also criticized Pawlenty for his ‘disturbing’ unallotment of the state budget earlier this year and for not working harder with the Legislature to fill the next budget gap expected to run into the billions of dollars. ‘If you don’t like negotiating with the Legislature, you really ought not be governor,’ said Carlson about Pawlenty, ‘because they are part of the solution.’ Even better is the response by Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung, ” ‘Gov. Carlson has said he doesn’t consider himself a Republican anymore,’ and doesn’t represent the views of most Republicans’.” What’s more, adds McClung, ” ‘Some people apparently don’t know when it’s time to leave the stage.’ ” In other words, “First, be a good Republican and shut up. And then second, go away and shut up.”

For some reason, this makes us think of an invasion of “spiny waterfleas,” like those now turning up in Lake Mille Lacs. An AP story says, “It’s the first discovery of the species outside of Lake Superior and certain U.S.-Canadian border waters, such as Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake and Namakan Lake.”

It’s always reassuring that in a tough economy, someone out there is in an expansion and growth mode — you know, where they’re feeling so flush and confident about the future they’re making plans for lavish additions to their existing property. So we’re thrilled to hear, via Burl Gilyard in Finance and Commerce, that a company called UnitedHealth, out in Minnetonka, sees only bright days ahead. Gilyard quotes a spokesman saying, “UnitedHealth Group is considering building a new office building adjacent to its headquarters in Minnetonka … The project is currently in the planning and design stage. UnitedHealth Group expects to present a preliminary plan to the city of Minnetonka later this year.” For the record, Gilyard adds, “Ranked in terms of its revenue, UnitedHealth Group is the largest publicly traded company in Minnesota, substantially larger than Minneapolis-based retailer Target Corp.” So yeah, we’re happy for them.

St. Paul is granting a noise variance for a location somewhere in a large swath of the city’s West Side. The reason? “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” wants to completely demolish and rebuild a house in one week. Dave Orrick of the PiPress writes, “A resolution passed by the city council specifies the following general area for the variance: east of Oakdale Avenue, north of Morton Street West, west of Woodbury Street and south of the bluff line along Caesar Chavez Street.” The mayor’s office is organizing a “pep rally” for volunteers to help.

Brighter is better, and the state is spending about $6.5 million in stimulus money to brighten stretches of the southwest metro freeway system with new lighting. The Strib’s Laurie Blake says, “About 770 new poles and lights will be installed on Hwy. 169 between Interstate 494 in Edina and Eden Prairie and Interstate 694 in Brooklyn Park and Maple Grove … Another 405 new poles and lights will go in along Hwy. 100 through Edina and on Interstate 35W from Hwy. 13 in Burnsville to 106th Street in Bloomington.” Strangely, the new lights are not LED.

Next thing you know someone will tell us the Holy Grail is stashed inside Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji. Heron Marquez Estrada has a piece in the Strib about a local “petrographic expert” who consulted on a new History channel documentary, “Holy Grail in America,” which will run twice again this Saturday. The linchpin of this story? The Kensington Runestone! (Yeah, it’s back.) Says Marquez Estrada, “Not only does [the local expert] believe the stone is real and that it predates Christopher Columbus by more than 130 years, he also has come to the startling conclusion that the stone was carved by the Order of the Knights Templar, a medieval European military group, as a land claim for much of eastern North America.” OK, he thinks he’s so smart, let’s see him tie this to the Oak Island mystery.

A 63-year-old St. Paul School District accountant scammed more than $80,000
by diverting Xcel Energy refund checks into his private account. Madeleine Baran of MPR says things started falling apart when the guy requested an $18,980 refund on his residential Xcel Energy account. “[T]he utility company launched an investigation, the complaint said. By the time the investigation was launched, Elwood had already received ten refund checks from Xcel Energy totaling $50,500. Xcel Energy determined that the credit balance and regularly monthly payments had been made using St. Paul Public School District funds.”

Gotta love Jeanne Heintz, the 84-year-old St. Paul woman and Bruce Springsteen fan who got pulled up on the stage to do a Courtney Cox number with The Boss during his 60th birthday show in Des Moines. The PiPress’s Ross Rahaila writes, “[T]he Boss pulled Heintz out of the crowd and up onto the stage to cut a rug during his 1984 hit ‘Dancing in the Dark.’ ‘It was unreal,’ Heintz said with a laugh. ‘I didn’t believe it would ever happen. I was really, really happy.’ This wasn’t the first time Heintz has seen Springsteen … Heintz and her daughter Jackie have attended more than 100 Springsteen concerts together.”

Those romantic dinners at home, sharing a box of Honey Nut Cheerios with a half cup of skim milk? Not only is it giving you and the spouse some quality time together, it’s fattening General Mills’ bottom line. The “eat at home” trend has the General’s quarterly earnings up 51 percent from a year ago with prospects good for more of the same, says Steve Alexander in the Strib. He writes, “While General Mills has been helped by the consumer trend of eating at home more and eating out less, [CEO Ken] Powell said the company won’t be hurt when the economy recovers and consumers presumably will eat at home less often. ‘There’s still half a trillion dollars being spent on food away from home, which is half of all food spending in the U.S.,’ Powell said. ‘Our results are just getting a little tailwind now from somewhat fewer consumers eating out.’ ”

And Lord help us, but this Twins revival things appears to be for real. OK, the White Sox, who they finished sweeping in Chicago last night, quit a month ago, well before the season ended, and it looks like our guys will have to face Cy Young probable Zack Greinke of the Royals twice in the next 10 days, including for the Metrodome finale. But for the time being it’s like buying a lottery ticket … you can dream about Brian Duensing shutting out the Yankees in New York.