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Dayton budget spares LGA

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Equal pay concerns; Dayton makes his case; another hospital drug heist; due diligence on Vikes stadium; Central Corridor funds; ferreting out justice; Emmer’s back; and more.
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Dayton budget spares LGA

Early word is that Gov. Dayton’s budget today will spare cities yet more cuts in Local Government Aid. Brian Bakst’s AP story says: “The decision to exclude local allowances from cuts is part of Dayton’s strategy to make the tax debate about more than just his plan for higher income taxes on top earners. In recent days, he has pushed an argument that property taxes could go up as a result of cutting local government aid.” “Could,” you say?

Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, writes a commentary for the Austin Post-Bulletin on the topic of having a broad-based discussion on budget remedies. She draws particular attention to proposals to repeal the Equal Pay for Women law: “Legislation introduced this session calls for the repeal of this law, thereby removing equal pay protections women are currently offered. This attempt to repeal pay equity for women is troubling, especially considering research indicates an equity problem remains. According to a June 2010 report by the Woman’s Foundation of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota, white women earn 76 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. Disparities are even worse for African American and Hispanic women. … Pay equity is not only an issue of basic fairness, it is also an economic issue. More than 80 percent of Minnesota women work outside the home, including almost half of women older than 65.”

Dayton himself writes a commentary for the Strib, explaining his budget thinking: “As I have pointed out before, the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s analysis is that the richest Minnesotans pay only about three-fourths the percentage of their incomes in state and local taxes as do middle-income Minnesotans. I believe that is unfair and wrong. I don’t expect anyone to like to pay more taxes. I respect that all Minnesotans work hard for every dollar they earn. However, I do ask our most successful citizens to understand our state’s desperate financial situation, and I ask them please to help us prevent draconian cuts in essential public services.”

A second story of drug thieving is giving nurses a bad name. Dave Hanners at the PiPress has the story of a Superior, Wis., woman charged with the heist of drugs from a Coon Rapids hospital: “Maria Anne Mihalik, 27, of Superior, Wis., was named in a federal charge in an incident last May in which she allegedly entered patient rooms at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and took the strong pain killer Dilaudid. Investigators believe she took the drug from at least three patients. Mihalik didn’t work at the hospital, but police said at the time of the incident she was wearing scrubs and an ID badge in an attempt to blend in with the other hospital workers. Last week, Hennepin County prosecutors filed state charges against another nurse, Sarah May Casareto, 33, of Forest Lake. She is accused of theft in allegedly taking part of the potent painkiller Fentanyl that was supposed to be administered to a man having a kidney stone removed at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis in December.”

Without, of course, asserting an opinion on a taxpayer-supported Vikings Stadium in Ramsey Country, the PiPress editorializes about the need to be cautious about all contingencies and fair in every way: “We have seen in the Hennepin County-Target Field experience that it takes a long-term commitment by the local partner to pull off such a deal. In that case, four Hennepin county commissioners had to make an unpopular decision to raise taxes, and to stand by that decision. They needed the support of a divided Legislature and a signature by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. It was a long and difficult road. Ramsey County isn’t yet ready to sign on for that. But it may be there some day. In the meantime, county officials must provide realistic details on costs and benefits and sound out citizens on their willingness to shoulder this burden. There is a broad consensus on the appeal of the men in purple to the state, but not on whether taxpayers should help build the team a new sports palace.” Well, nothing to disagree with there.

President Obama’s budget includes $200 million for the Central Corridor LRT project. Laura Yuen of MPR reports: “Project supporters say the inclusion of Central Corridor in the president’s budget is yet another sign of confidence from Washington. A final contract committing the federal government to pay for half of the nearly $1 billion transit system is expected to be signed in April. Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said the project has risen to the top of a list of transit projects across the country vying for federal funding.” But what would Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker do? 

Justice has finally come to the Great Ferret Escape of 2006.  Brian Wellner in the Mason City Globe Gazette writes: “[Scott] DeMuth pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism. He admitted to releasing ferrets from Lakeside Ferret Inc. in April 2006 — when he was 17 — and causing damage to computers and records. DeMuth was among a group of animal rights activists who sneaked onto the farm in the middle of the night, cut holes in the fence and opened cages to let the ferrets loose, prosecutors said. … [T]he raid caused Lakeside Ferret Inc., which supplied ferrets to pet stores, to go out of business, an accusation denied by DeMuth’s defense attorney, Michael Deutsch. Of the 200 ferrets released, all but 10 were eventually returned to the owner.”

And when have you ever doubted that money talks? Candidate-turned-lobbyist Tom Emmer has his first client, and he’ll soon be working his old pals at the Legislature attempting to maintain a ban he used to argue for lifting. Baird Helgeson of the Strib reports: “ Two years ago, then-state Rep. Tom Emmer made a fervent appeal on the House floor to lift a moratorium on new cancer radiation clinics not attached to hospitals. In a spirited debate, the Republican from Delano called the ban ‘patently unfair’ and ‘micromanaging in its worst form.’ He pleaded with legislators to let ‘market forces return.’ Earlier this month, the unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate registered as a lobbyist. His only client: Minneapolis Radiation Oncology Physicians, the outfit that wants to extend the moratorium.” Uh … yeah … so like the point is … what?

Al Barnes, 85, passed away Monday morning, before there was a conclusive legal resolution in the case of his wife who had been charged with changing his health care declaration. Jeremy Olson of the Strib writes: “Attorneys for Methodist produced evidence that [Lana Barnes] had altered her husband’s original 1993 health care declaration, and deleted parts in which he said he didn’t want ‘heroic’ measures to save him from a terminal condition. The court ruled against … Barnes, giving authority to a private guardian, but that ruling was not the end. Last Monday, as the guardian prepared to remove Barnes from life support, Lana Barnes successfully appealed for a delay.”