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Gov. Walker proclaims State Employee Recognition Day

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Walz goes after yacht tax break; Dean apologizes for name-calling; Bachmann’s bridge-building; law profs diss amendment plan; exports on rise; and more.
Read Wed. Afternoon Edition


If they gave medals for  raw chutzpah, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker would be the new Michael Phelps. You heard that he’s decreed a State Employee Recognition Day and has begun handing out State Employee Recognition Awards? The, uh, irony has the AFL-CIO ‘s Mike Hall blogging: “[W]hatever you decide to call Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement … just weeks after his long and bitter fight to eliminate [workers’] collective bargaining rights, it’s hypocrisy at its worst. … Walker’s action comes just days after he appointed the partner in a union-busting Milwaukee law firm as the new commissioner and chairman of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC). That’s the state body that decides disputes between state workers and management and now with Wisconsin workers’ rights eroded is even more important.” It’s kind of like my neighbor Bob declaring “Deer Appreciation Day” after poaching a couple bucks.

No! Not their yachts! Do you have any idea how many jobs are provided cleaning and fueling those things? Nevertheless 1st District Congressman Tim Walz is going after one of the more absurd tax breaks. Brett Neely of MPR writes: “Southern Minnesota doesn’t have any ocean shoreline or a constituency of high-end yacht owners, and maybe that’s why [Democratic] Rep. Tim Walz has introduced the Ending Taxpayer Subsidies for Yachts Act. The bill would prohibit boat owners from taking the mortgage interest deduction on their vessel by claiming it as a second home. Walz introduced the bill jointly with Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Gary Peters (D-MI). Boats equipped with bedding, toilets and a kitchen are considered to be equivalent to houses under the tax code. In a press release, Walz’s office noted that more than 500,000 boats were large enough to qualify for the tax credit in 2004 even though just 100,000 Americans live on boats full time.”

For the record, Wednesday’s deliciously juvenile flare-up by House (GOP) Majority Leader Matt Dean, where he called well-known local author Neil Gaiman a “pencil-necked little weasel” seems to be dying down. Tom Scheck of MPR writes: “Dean of Dellwood is apologizing … but isn’t backing off of his criticism of the author for collecting a $45,000 speaking fee from state taxpayers. ‘I’m sure he has a lot of fans but also a lot of those fans would agree that he’s extremely financially successful,’ Dean said. ‘He could probably donate a few hours of his time for some kids who follow him and like his books. … My mom is staying with us right now. My wife’s out of town, and she was very angry this morning and always taught me to not be a name caller. And I shouldn’t have done it, and I apologize.’ ” So there, Mr. Poopy Pants.

Today in Bachmannia:  Larry Bivins of the St. Cloud Times looks at our favorite congresswoman’s efforts to get that bluff-to-bluff St. Croix-spanning bridge built. He sees a test for her delivering-the-pork … chops: “The proposal presents a test for the fiery conservative’s ability to build support among colleagues who stand to gain nothing from backing a bill for a bridge in her district. One colleague she’s unlikely to win over is Rep. Betty McCollum, D-St. Paul, who has vowed to fight any attempt to lift the Scenic Rivers Act protections that stand in the way. …Bachmann’s one-page bill calls on Congress to deem the project “consistent with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.” She has three co-sponsors, including Wisconsin Reps. Sean Duffy, a Republican, and Ron Kind, a Democrat, both of whom represent districts that would be partly served by the river crossing.”

The latest GOP push for a ban on gay marriage is not impressing a group of prominent of U of M law professors. Kyle Potter of the Minnesota Daily reports: “In the letter signed by 63 Law School faculty, the professors wrote that the proposed amendment ‘would set in constitutional cement the existing hardships on thousands of families, including children, that many in the legal profession serve.’ ‘[It] will likely generate litigation over both its validity and its scope; in effect, the legislature is inviting significant and needless expense for the state and its citizens during a time of extraordinary economic difficulty.’ ”

They’re “buying Minnesota” in Asia and Canada. The Strib story by Dee DePass says: “Manufactured exports from Minnesota rose an impressive 17.3 percent to $17.2 billion last year, marking the second-highest annual total on record, thanks to strong sales to Asia and Canada, state officials announced Wednesday. The results were the best since 2008 and came after ‘strong growth in all four quarters of 2010,’ said Mark Phillips, commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. … Large Minnesota exporters such as 3M, Pentair and Donaldson Co. delivered double-digit revenue gains in 2010. Demand for their products overseas and the need to replace depleted inventories at their domestic customers helped the manufacturing sector rebound from a tough 2009.”

Local blogger and TV host Ahmed Thawat takes an angle on this past weekend’s big events — a royal wedding and the rub-out of a terrorist — that you haven’t heard much of in the American press. He writes in the Strib: “[F]or most Americans the wonderful images of millions of peaceful Arab demonstrators in Tahrir Square and Arab streets, all chanting one thing to their dictators — ‘Irhal,’ leave — were replaced by images of thousands of Americans who poured into the street, chanting USA! USA!, waving flags, singing the Star-Spangled Banner, all to celebrate the death of Bin Laden. The celebration of death ritual is, I believe, a sign of declining empire. ‘To celebrate the killing of a life, any life, is a failure to honor life’s inherent sanctity,’ explained Dr. Pamela Gerloff in Psychology Today. … Obama gambled his political career on this daring operation. He has been eager to please the right wing and angry Tea Party folks, willing to do anything to get them to accept him as fully American. First they forced him to produce his original birth certificate; now he needs to produce Bin Laden’s death certificate before Donald Trump asks for it.” And they thought Nick Coleman used to get mail …

Likewise, worth reading in the Strib is John McCarthy of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association’s “counterpoint” to the recent claim that tribal casinos are “tax free.” He writes: “It is simply wrong to claim that tribal casinos are untaxed. In fact, they are taxed at a rate of 100 percent. That means that all of the proceeds from tribal casinos go directly to the tribal governments that operate them. In this they are like the Minnesota Lottery, which is operated by the state, with all proceeds after prizes going to the state.
In both cases, government gaming proceeds are used to provide for the needs of citizens in areas like health care, education, economic development, housing, elder services, law enforcement, emergency services and infrastructure maintenance. [Gary] Larson conveniently ignores the fact that federal law prohibits states from taxing Indian tribes.”