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Plan for mineral mining leases hits immediate resistance

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Deadly avalanche; a budget deal possibly in works, and Strib offers its plan; librarian’s gift of books; GOP still owes recount bills; new Wisconsin intrigue; and more.
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Now, in fairness, there is an actual “jobs, jobs, jobs” component to this one. The Duluth News Tribune goes into some depth with the story of mineral prospecting rights — bidding on leases — for 621 pieces of state-owned land, some of it under privately owned land: “Mining supporters — and official state policy — say the leases are a critical first step to tapping the state’s vast mineral wealth, leading to new types of mining, hundreds of jobs, increased taxes and huge royalties for the state to pay for schools, roads and more. But opponents say the system is stacked against landowners, some of whom didn’t realize they don’t own what’s under their own land. And others say the state is allowing too much prospecting too fast. Ron Brodigan started his Great Lakes School of Log Building in 1975 near Isabella because of its remote location. Thursday’s DNR auction includes state mineral rights under 120 of his 200 acres. While the winning bidder must negotiate with Brodigan for access, state laws generally favor mineral rights over surface rights, meaning Brodigan can’t simply say no. … ‘My neighbors and I are disgusted at the prospect of damage, noise and pollution we will be seeing within a year’, Brodigan said. ‘We are frightened as well about our water wells, which will likely be impacted by exploration under’ our land.”

It appears an April avalanche killed an Afton man and his friend in Wyoming. Michelle Knoll of KSTP reports: “Crews picked up beacon signals on Saturday in the debris left behind by a large avalanche. They believe the avalanche came down about the same time Greg Seftick and his friend, Walker Kuhl, went into the back country. Crews began digging to the beacon signals Saturday. ‘They dug through about five feet of snow, and then they were able to use probe poles, and got a positive hit, which means they might have hit a backpack, or the tent, or other gear, that really confirmed for us that there was a high likelihood that that was where Greg and Walker were,’ said parks spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs. … Their bodies were removed from the mountain Sunday morning.”

Baird Helgeson of the Strib says the outlines of a budget deal are beginning to appear: “The deal would likely be a buffet of moving parts, drawing in education reforms, Dayton’s commissioner appointments and even a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Part of the plan could include GOP proposals to scrap teacher seniority rules while boosting merit pay. It could take in part of Dayton’s plan to bond for projects of statewide significance, and could include a roof for a new stadium. [Charlie] Weaver said the state could borrow money for the roof, leaving the team owner and a local government partner to negotiate the cost to build the rest of the stadium. … Several Republican leaders and budget experts say a solution also could be found in a yet-to-be-determined mix of fees, surcharges and the closure of tax loopholes that now mostly benefit high earners. Such a plan could raise revenue while allowing the GOP to keep their pledge to avoid tax increases.” Obviously, a high premium will be placed on semantics.

And she stipulates, “popular titles.” The Strib’s Kevin Duchschere delivers the story of the librarian who left the library more than $600,000: “Linda Engberg chuckled when she learned that her longtime friend and colleague, Lillian Wallis, had bequeathed a large sum to the Hennepin County Library specifically for ‘popular books that circulate.’ Wallis, it seemed, was not going to be responsible for any more obscure, dusty tomes piling up in the back stacks. ‘She had a real appreciation for the role of the public library,’ said Engberg, former deputy director of the Hennepin library. Wallis, who died in September at age 85, left $646,000 to the library’s foundation, the biggest such gift to the Hennepin library in recent years. It’s half the $1.1 million the foundation had previously received since 2003.” So that means more copies of anything with teenage vampires?

“Short on cash”? What? The AP story mentions three counties still waiting for the state GOP to pay its bills for costs the counties were forced to incur over last fall’s Dayton-Emmer recount: “Sibley County is owed $1,623, Nicollet County is waiting for $1,300, and Martin County is owed $350. The Republican Party requested copies of election-related documents from all 87 Minnesota counties after Democrat Mark Dayton narrowly edged Republican Tom Emmer on Nov. 2. Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton said the party is short on cash but is paying off counties as it gets money to do so. He tells The Free Press of Mankato all bills will eventually be paid.” $3,273? Tony, man up and expense it.

Every true film lover, every cineaste, is familiar with the classic Turbo-Lax scene from “Dumb and Dumber.” That may have been the inspiration for this story from Jeff Starck of the Marshfield (Wis.) News Herald. “A single mother who gave her college professor laxative-laced cookies must pay a $300 fine after she was suspended from school and subjected to public humiliation. Becky Riiser, 38, of Wausau pleaded no contest Thursday to three misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges after prosecutors agreed to reduce a felony charge of placing a foreign object in food. Former University of Wisconsin Marathon County biology professor Aruni Pehl-DeSilva became ill after she ate one of the cookies she found Dec. 18, 2009, outside her office. Riiser told investigators in January 2010 that she put half of a box of Ex-lax in the cookie batter, according to police. At Riiser’s plea hearing Thursday, Marathon County Circuit Judge Greg Huber called the act ‘demeaning … the cruelty of (the act) is uncalled for,’ Huber said. ‘For someone of your maturity, (this) was totally unexpected.’ “

If you’re a fan of Wisconsin politics circa 2011 — and who isn’t? — you owe it to yourself to read Rick Ungar of Forbes’ piece about an overheard elevator Capitol conversation referencing a certain “Jason” that has set off a new spiral of conspiracy theories and amateur sleuthing. He says: “[S]peculation has now turned to Jason Childress, a lobbyist employed by the law firm of Foley & Lardner, the Wisconsin based firm with strong ties to Gov. Scott Walker and the Walker administration. It is also the law firm once run by Walker campaign chairman and Walker transition team leader, Mike Grebe. Grebe now serves as the CEO for the uber-conservative Bradley Foundation and has previously served as Chairman of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, both clients of the Foley law firm. … why is it important that Jason Childress might be the individual sharing information on what Foley & Lardener may – or may not – be doing with respect to the financial stress test and the plans government might have to use this information to pursue a Michigan style financial emergency bill? For starters, Childress is a lobbyist for the Koch Brothers. Thus, if Childress is a participant in the drafting or formulation of the legislation that would create the fiscal stress test, it seems reasonable to want to know how much his Koch Brothers clients are involved in the same.” There are, of course, no conspiracies in American politics. That’s what makes us so exceptional.

You may have already read the Strib editorial board’s plan for dealing with the state deficit. It ran in Sunday’s edition. It is certainly grist for debate. It suggests, for example: “Like Dayton and the Legislature, we propose to break the Legislature’s promise to repay school districts $1.4 billion that was ‘shifted’ away from them in 2010-11. It’s time to concede that the ‘shift’ was in fact a one-time cut. Not repaying it shaves the $5 billion forecasted deficit to $3.6 billion.” Shocked as I’m sure you are that all talk about “shifting” would be exactly what it smelled like from the get-go, I found the amusing part of the Strib editorial was how it left for last … tax increases. And note the almost apologetic tone: “An income tax increase on the state’s top earners belongs in the mix. Ours is about a third as large as Dayton proposes. We call for a new top bracket with an 8.85 percent rate — 1 percentage point higher than the current top rate — for taxable incomes starting for married joint filers at $200,000. In ordinary income terms, that’s about $250,000. … Our reason goes back to where we started today’s editorial. Shared sacrifice must extend to this state’s most successful citizens. They now pay an effective state-plus-local tax rate several percentage points lower than that paid by low- and middle-income Minnesotans. Yet our balanced approach to the budget also ensures that the state will remain competitive as necessary reforms take hold and the economy rebounds.” We MUST compete with South Dakota! And Mississippi! And Alabama!

The State Column posts a blog piece on the latest GOP presidential polling by the Gallup folks: “Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty received a paltry 5 percent support, according to the latest Gallup poll. The latest Gallup poll finds former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee tied with New York real estate developer Donald Trump, while Mr. Pawlenty tied Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann with just five percent. … The former Republican governor has polled poorly in a number of polls asking potential Republican voters whether they recognized Mr. Pawlenty as one of the front-runners for the 2012 nomination. That said, with the likely entry of Mr. Trump to the race, Mr. Pawlenty’s problem could grow exponentially worse in the coming months.”