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UnitedHealth CEO’s income drops in half … to $48.8 million

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Pawlenty “clarifies” CNN comments; Hastings editorial’s budget advice; committee finds time for abortion bills; budgeting politics; gigantic film fest; battling bankers; and more.
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On a day when the president is countering plans to deeply slash spending on middle-class programs rather than seek new revenues from the ultra-wealthy, we note that UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley had a tough year. Patrick Kennedy and Jackie Crosby of the Strib write: “Hemsley took home $48.8 million in total compensation last year, or about half as much as he took home in 2009, according to the company’s proxy statement filed Wednesday. Stock options granted in prior years contributed the bulk of his compensation in both years. In 2010, Hemsley realized a gain of $43.5 million on exercised options. … Since those options were granted, UnitedHealth’s stock has split at least 4 for 1 and the bulk of Hemsley’s option gains in 2010 were from an option grant in 2000 that has since split 8:1. In 2009 Hemsley exercised $98.6 million worth of previously issued stock options that contributed to his overall 2009 compensation of $102 million.”

At some point, you have to say, “Oh come on, man!” Tim Pawlenty popped up on FoxNews’ “Fox and Friends” this morning. (The real one, not the “Saturday Night Live” version.) He was still miffed about CNN “excerpting” his “I’m running for president” line. Sheila Ring at the (not exactly blockbuster) ThirdAge website, writes: “Pawlenty explained in an appearance on ‘Fox & Friends’ Wednesday, ‘I was asked if I wanted to be Donald Trump’s running mate, and I said look, I’m running for president. And in the next paragraph I explained in an exploratory committee but they only clipped the first part.’ He was referring to an interview he gave on CNN’s ‘Piers Morgan Tonight.’ ‘If you read the whole interview, I think people understood what I was saying,’ he continued. ‘I’ve said many times … that I’m not being cute about it. I’m interested in doing it. I’m leaning in that direction,’ he told Fox News.” But you know, Guv, you are looking kinda cute.

An editorial in today’s Hastings Star Gazette tries to talk sense to legislators playing ideological games with the budget: “There are two major ways for Minnesota legislators to cut the state’s out-of-balance budget. One is across-the-board percentage slashes. The other is targeted, specific reductions based on potential impacts on people. The former is lazy, feel-good ideology. The latter requires thoughtful consideration of the wisdom and effects of budget cuts. One is easy and inherently callous, the other is difficult and necessarily compassionate. Minnesota’s budget debate is bouncing between the two approaches. On one hand is the Republican majority in the Legislature, which seems to favor the percentage approach. On the other side is DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who, during a meeting a few weeks ago emphasized the effects cuts will have on people and families.” The piece then goes on to commend GOP Sen. Morrie Lanning’s proposal for … a 20 percent across-the-board cut to specific agencies.

As we continue to watch the Legislature’s laser-like focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs,” Andy Birkey of The Minnesota Independent checks into the two anti-abortion bills working their way through the Capitol. He notes: “Jordon Bauer of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life told the committee, ‘State tax money is used for a lot of great things, but in recent years our taxpayer dollars have been diverted to the purpose of killing unborn children.’ She cited polling data showing widespread public disapproval for taxpayer-funded abortion services. ‘A 2010 poll of the 8th Congressional District found that 73 percent oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortions. These results are consistent with other state and national polling,’ said Bauer. ‘Minnesota taxpayers, a strong majority of whom don’t want their tax dollars going to abortion, have essentially helped to end the lives of 55,000 Minnesotans.’ The poll cited by Bauer was done by one of the country’s largest political groups opposed to abortion rights, the Susan B. Anthony List. The poll was conducted as part of a campaign to unseat Rep. James Oberstar, a DFLer who opposed such rights but supported President Obama’s health care reform proposal. SBA List went after Democrats in districts with a high ‘pro-life’ bent and claimed that the Affordable Care Act would fund abortions, which it does not.” “Does” — “does not” … why the quibbling?

Preston GOP Rep. Greg Davids, chair of the House Tax Committee, has a commentary in the Rochester Post-Bulletin ripping Gov. Dayton’s tax plans. And yes, he does mention “job killing”: “One of the stated goals of the governor’s tax plan is to make Minnesota’s tax system more progressive. Yet when the budget forecast improved, Dayton backed away from his plan to implement the highest income-tax rate in the country — a rate only the top 1 percent of incomes in Minnesota would have paid. House Republicans have no desire to raise state taxes on anyone. Facing a $5.1 billion shortfall, we believe state government should spend no more than it collects. We also believe that if we force our residents and our business owners to pay higher taxes in this poor economic climate, it will ultimately kill jobs and force more businesses and companies to close. We did give Gov. Dayton’s job-killing tax hike idea a vote, however. It was brought up on the House floor, and it received zero votes. In the Senate, it received one vote. … Several days ago, I received some new information that found Dayton’s tax increases would impact many more than Minnesota’s very wealthy residents. After reviewing the update to the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s 2011 Tax Incidence Study, the one thing that stood out was that the governor’s idea would increase taxes to Minnesotans on every income level, not just the people he considers rich. … This plan no longer taxes just ‘rich’ Minnesotans. It attacks all Minnesotans.”

Over at MPR, Tom Scheck covers the budget wrangle, saying: “The disagreement is becoming a game of fiscal chicken between Dayton and Republican leaders. Dayton’s strategy is to show the public that Republicans would actually have to cut deeply into K12 schools and Health and Human Services programs to erase the deficit without a tax increase. Republicans are working to show that projected growth in spending can be curtailed without any real harm to core state programs. Republicans don’t appear to be backing off of their budget numbers … yet. Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch told reporters that the GOP is willing to work with Dayton to come up with numbers that they can both agree on, but she says Republicans are adamant that their ideas will save more than what’s been projected.” Waivers from federal rules regarding poor people’s coverage under Medicaid are key to the GOP plan.

Some stories you have to check to see if they’re accidentally repeating stuff posted months earlier. Like Stribber Dee DePass’s story about Cargill’s latest earnings report: “Agricultural giant Cargill reported Wednesday a 30 percent spike in earnings from continuing operations of $763 million for the third quarter thanks to strong sales of food ingredients, processing and grain marketing efforts. Including discontinued operations, Minnetonka-based Cargill saw net earnings for the quarter jump 23 percent to $1.11 billion, up from $898 million the prior year.” I gotta look, but do Cargill’s earnings ever do anything but “spike”?

MPR’s Euen Kerr files a story on the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, which opens Thursday: “Sitting in the cool and relatively quiet headquarters of the MSPIFF, coordinator Ryan Oestreich ran down some impressive numbers. ‘It’s 200 featured programs,’ he said. ‘Which means that there’s somewhere around 190 feature films, and then there’s 10 shorts programs. So if you do a physical count of the number of actual film titles and directors, there’s around 240 to 250 films.’ The festival is longer than in years past, running three weeks through May 5. Most films will screen twice and, in some cases, three times. Oestreich said there’s a huge number of filmmakers coming in — including one on opening night featuring a local lad made good. ‘We have particular interest with David Carr, who used to write for the Twin Cities Reader here,’ Oestreich said. Carr is in a new film called ‘Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times.’ ” Carr … matinee idol … the apocalypse is nigh!

Now really, is this anyway for bankers to behave? Chris Serres of the Strib reports: “David Grzan, former president of Equity Bank of Minnetonka, alleges in a lawsuit that his former boss and longtime business partner Steven Liefschultz threatened to murder him, burn down his house and cut off his two children’s fingers if he left for another job. Grzan also claims that Liefschultz owes him about $3 million for gains on commercial real estate transactions.” Kinda makes you wonder what the guy’d do if you missed a loan payment.