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Kansas City beats out Duluth for big Google project

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Senate’s health and welfare package; Dayton’s budget negotiation plan; rising flood control costs; Walker’s train proposal; and more.
Read Wed. Afternoon Edition


Well, I guess everything’s going to be even more up to date in Kansas City. Google has picked KC, Kansas, instead of Duluth for its big, super-fast fiber-optic Internet experiment. The Strib’s Steve Alexander writes: “Kansas City had beaten out more than 1,000 other cities to win the free Google fiber-optic network. But there was no joy in Duluth, which had failed in its high-profile bid for a network that would have made the city a national technology showcase while helping jump-start economic development. To make matters worse, Kansas City’s win follows a spate of rumors in Duluth last week that the city had won. The prize is staggering: a futuristic network that would provide 1-gigabit-per-second download speeds to individual homes, or 100 times faster than what passes for high-speed Internet in most U.S. households. At that speed, consumers could quickly download movies, and doctors could ‘see’ patients who were miles away.”

Since no one is expecting good news, we’ll just cut straight to the list in the AP story about the health and welfare package the Senate GOP has tossed up: “Here are highlights from the bill:
Prohibits state spending to implement the federal health care overhaul unless the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the challenged law, while directing the state attorney general to take legal action to block the law from being carried out in Minnesota.
Rolls back a Medicaid expansion Dayton ordered in January for nearly 100,000 vulnerable adults and revives a less generous state program created under former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Above certain income limits, removes adults without children and — if federal officials agree — families with children from state health programs and instead offers them sliding-scale subsidies to buy private insurance. Dayton administration officials contend that the federal government is unlikely to grant permission for the change, putting some of the bill’s cost-cutting in doubt.
Eliminates coverage for eyeglasses, dentures, physical therapy and chiropractic care for patients on public health programs.” … And it goes on.

Rachel Stassen-Berger and McKenzie Martin post on the Strib’s “Hot Dish Politics” that Gov. Dayton will wait until the Legislature completes all of its work before entering the gladiatorial arena for negotiations: “Dayton said: ‘They’ll have their budget, I have my budget, and they both are balanced budgets, we’ll have our differences and then we can begin to negotiate. I think that’s a very reasonable proposa.’ That idea could put negotiations weeks out. … Legislative leaders said Wednesday that Dayton’s ‘reasonable proposal’ is flawed and would mean blocking some measures on which they could agree until they agree on everything. ‘What he’s proposing simply doesn’t work. It has never been done or proposed as a means of finishing session, primarily that’s because procedurally it’s impossible to do. In principle we would like to have a governor very engaged in an open process with the House and Senate in the conference committee process and indeed in bills because our goal … is the Legislature agrees to bills the governor can sign,’ said House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood.”

A suspicious bag on a flight bound for Chicago closed Rochester’s airport for three hours Wednesday. Matt Russell of the Post-Bulletin writes: “The device, found in a suitcase in the checked luggage area at the east end of the terminal, was about to be loaded onto a flight, airport manager Steve Leqve said. Officials didn’t immediately know if the suitcase contained an explosive device, Leqve said. A bomb squad from the Twin Cities was sent to the scene, according to the Rochester Police Department.”

Other than last year’s electronic gizmo and political rhetoric, very few things get cheaper with the passage of time. Certainly not flood diversion along the Red River. MPR’s Dan Gunderson files a story saying that procrastination has added another $200 million to the bill for the big fix: “North Dakota has committed to helping fund the project and has set aside money in the state budget. Some officials want a similar financial commitment from Minnesota. Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said that’s unlikely. ‘Minnesota historically has not really stepped forward until there is a project,’ Voxland said. ‘A project means an authorized project from Congress. If that’s the case, they’re saying to me until we get this authorized — hopefully in 2012 — they’re not interested in talking with us and making that commitment.’ Voxland said despite the cost, the project is critical to protecting the metro area from annual floods. ‘We’re all tired of this type of an effort,’ Voxland said. ‘My staff, I know Fargo’s staff [too], is tired of blowing the first few months of every year just getting ready for a flood fight. There’s other things we need to do to have a city that works.’ ”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is taking flak … today … for petitioning the federal government for money … for upgrading railroads. He is, of course, famous for rejecting $800 million in federal money for a high-speed train between Milwaukee and Madison, on the grounds it was wasteful. Sam Stein of The Huffington Post explains the details. “Inconsistency, the governor’s office insisted, this surely was not. The $150 million in funds Walker was now requesting were for improvements to the Hiawatha line — between Milwaukee and Chicago — which, the governor stressed, was more popular and profitable. … A Department of Transportation source, however, says that while the majority of the $800-million-plus in funds set aside for Wisconsin was for the Madison-Milwaukee rail, a small but not insignificant chunk was for improvements to the Hiawatha line. ‘They received $12 million to upgrade and lay new track on the Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago,’ the DOT official said. … Walker, it should be noted, was not responsible for Wisconsin’s initial application for high-speed rail funds. That would be his predecessor: Democrat Jim Doyle. But he also did not have to reject the full $800-million-plus package upon coming to office. The $12 million set aside for the Hiawatha line could, theoretically, have been kept and used for the purposes that Walker now wants. That it wasn’t kept earned Walker early plaudits among fellow, self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives. But it also put Wisconsin in its current predicament, in which it is one of potentially dozens of states petitioning the Department of Transportation for a chunk of the $2.4 billion that the state of Florida gave up when its governor, Rick Scott, rejected high-speed rail.”

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Op-Ed page, which endorsed Walker, responded limply: “Walker said he plans to join other Midwestern states in a joint application that would allow Wisconsin to buy two more train sets and eight locomotives, build a maintenance facility and renovate the train shed at the downtown Milwaukee Amtrak-Greyhound station. The feds should grant the money. Walker is often seen as an opponent of rail, but in cases where he sees that it makes sense, he’s on board with everyone else. Now if only he’d expand his vision to include more of the state.

Like all political junkies, the National Review is taking extreme interest in the April 5 Supreme Court election in Wisconsin. Robert Costa blogs: “With fresh legal questions being raised daily, the [anti-union rights] bill’s status is as murky as a Charlie Sheen tweet. But the tedious tangle over quorum rules and publication guidelines is merely a proxy for enraged progressives. The governor has beaten them at the polls and in the legislature. To topple his signature law, they need a black-robed coup. Pressure is mounting on the seven-member high court to weigh in. If they do, the bill risks being overturned. For the moment, judicial conservatives hold a 4–3 edge. But that could flip come April 5, when incumbent justice David Prosser, a former GOP legislator, battles JoAnne Kloppenburg, an environmental lawyer and veteran state attorney, for a ten-year term. The Prosser–Kloppenburg bout has political implications beyond the fate of Walker’s bill. Numerous GOP state senators are facing recalls, and Walker himself could face one next year. If Prosser falls, it will be a heavy blow to Republicans, especially for the backbenchers who stood with Walker, many of whom had hoped to emerge from the fiery budget debate with their careers intact. … ‘This is for all the marbles,’ says Charlie Sykes, a prominent conservative talk-radio host in Milwaukee. ‘Scott Walker could survive losing the state senate. But it would be devastating if he were to lose in the supreme court. If Prosser loses, almost everything that Walker enacted could be overturned.’ ”

With murmurs of “Medicare reform” again in the wind, former Sen. Dave Durenberger posts a short item on his National Institute for Health Policy blog. He says: “The fastest growth in entitlement spending comes in the Medicare program for nearly 48 million of us, plus the leading edge boomers who will qualify this year. The Kaiser Family Foundation this week released a study of the financial consequences of moving the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 to coincide with Social Security. This suggestion obviously is not ‘reform.’  While it saves the Medicare Trust Fund billions, it will cost people in that age bracket an average of $2,400 each and will increase the costs to those already on Medicare and to employers of those who choose to stay in employment through age 66. The best Medicare reform is health care reform.  There are appropriate reform policies in place now in the new health reform law (ACA) which change payment policy, create incentives to reduce the public costs of those dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, and  begin to reward those health systems serving many Medicare beneficiaries at much less than the national average cost of care.”