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Pre-shutdown, layoff notices go out to 800 cops

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Farmers and health care; the benefits of an Arden Hills stadium; a local company gets a big client in India; and more.
Read Tues. Afternoon Edition


You want big government out of your business? You think private industry is the best answer to every problem? Well, consider hiring your own police force. Rachel Stassen-Berger’s Strib story on layoff notices for 800 law officers says: “Minnesota is warning 800 state troopers, conservation officers and other law enforcement officials that they may be out of work by July 1. The notices, which are going out Wednesday, tell the employees they could face layoffs ‘unless they are directed to report to work to perform critical services during a government shutdown.’ In addition to troopers and conservation officers, the notices include licensed peace officers for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Department of Corrections. By next Friday, an additional 35,000 state workers will get their notices. Those will include clerks, engineers, nurses and residential school workers.”

The Minnesota Farmers Union takes the editorial position that … they’re not happy about this legislative session. The Spring Grove Herald runs their thoughts. “MFU agrees with Gov. Dayton’s veto of the Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill, because the bill would have revamped Minnesota Care. The Department of Human Services estimated that this action would result in thousands of working Minnesotans losing their health care. Farmers have a variable income and many rural communities rely heavily on Minnesota Care. Cuts to Minnesota Care would be devastating to rural Minnesotans, and Minnesota Farmers Union will continue to fight to make sure those cuts do not happen. MFU is disappointed the Legislature did not pass a tax bill the governor could sign and we are concerned about the impact a tax bill will have on property taxes, local government aid and essential services for our local units of government.”

Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett could not be more upbeat about the benefits of the Arden Hills Vikings stadium. He says in a commentary in the White Bear Press: “ … it will mean improved highways, good jobs and increased economic development for the entire state. The project will clean up the largest Superfund site in the state and turn the TCAAP property into a productive site that will create jobs and economic activity now and for decades to come. The stadium will be publicly owned and available for high school/amateur sports and other community events. A multi-purpose, year-round facility will allow the Twin Cities to continue to host events — such as the Super Bowl — and visitors from across Minnesota and beyond. The project will support 13,000 full- and part-time jobs, including 7,500 construction jobs, over a three-year construction period. The stadium project will put $286 million in construction wages in the pockets of working men and women over the next three years. In return, they will pump $10 million in income taxes into the state’s coffers.” Dang! That’s great! Let’s build a couple of them babies!

But before Commissioner Bennett stops hyper-ventilating, Tim Nelson of MPR notes that the St. Paul City Council is pretty much a solid buzzkill. “Six out of seven City Council members say they’re against a half-cent sales tax the county plans to help pay for the stadium and the council might even put the tax up to a vote — a non-binding, but telling gauge of support for the plan.…Council president Kathy Lantry and several other council members say they’d consider a formal resolution opposing the Arden Hills deal. The council proposed a stadium spending cap and a referendum requirement that helped scuttle city bids for the Twins in 2002 and 2004. Such local opposition could ultimately be a factor in a Vikings deal. Back in 2005, the Legislature skirted a limit on stadium spending in Minneapolis by handing a Twins deal to Hennepin County instead. Lawmakers also skipped a referendum, normally required for sales tax hikes. But Republicans may now feel differently about imposing new levies against taxpayer opposition — even in DFL strongholds like St. Paul. City Council member Dan Bostrom, who represents much of the East Side, said ‘no-new-taxes Republicans’ are risking hypocrisy if they sign on to the deal for the Vikings in Arden Hills.” Well … maybe … but Norquist’s pledge doesn’t say “No new taxes for…football” does it?

A local company has scored a big client in India for its biodegradable packaging system. David Shaffer of the Strib writes: “Northern Technologies International, based in Circle Pines, said it will sell corn-based resins for plastic coatings and packaging to ITC Ltd., a conglomerate based in Kolkata, India, whose paper products division had $769 million in sales for the 12 months through March. Executives did not put a price tag on the deal, but said it will be worth millions to the Minnesota company, whose engineers will help ITC develop new biodegradable and compostable bioplastic packaging for food, personal care products and other consumer goods. Some of the new packaging developed for the Indian market could be introduced into the U.S. market, said Vineet Dalal, vice president and director of global marketing for Northern Technologies International.”

A Zumbrota teenager who died in a car accident has been memorialized with a black spruce transplanted from Target Field. KARE-TV’s story (with video) says: “Season ticket holder Dan Flaaen submitted a video in memory of 2006 Zumbrota High School graduate Patrick Gadient and was chosen to receive one of the trees. Gadient died back in February, 2011 from injuries he suffered in a car crash. He was a 2006 graduate of Zumbrota-Mazeppa High School and grew up playing baseball along with watching the Minnesota Twins. ‘It’s tough losing somebody period,’ said Flaaen. ‘But when you lose somebody who had so much life to live it makes it even tougher.’ The black spruce was planted in the outfield at the Zumbrota-Mazeppa High School ballpark; a marker was also placed by it that reads: ‘Patrick Edward Gadient Class of 2006, Yaaa Baby.’”

Minneapolis’ protracted legal battle over pension benefits was not made any clearer by a ruling yesterday. Steve Brandt of the Strib says: “ … the ruling, by throwing out a pretrial decision that trimmed the payments of certain police and fire pensioners, made it a little harder to predict whether they’ll continue to support a proposed merger between their closed funds and a statewide pension fund. Mayor R.T. Rybak has said such a merger, which would need the state Legislature’s approval, is essential if the city is to hold down large property tax increases. If a merger doesn’t happen and the city ultimately loses its court battle, it could owe pensioners an additional $52 million in back payments and $87 million in future payments. The appeals court overturned a lower court’s decision that the closed police and fire pension funds had improperly included certain items of compensation in the salary base used for calculating pensions. The appeals court said that’s a question to be decided after a more extensive trial.” And the effect on property taxes of an “extensive trial” will be what, exactly?

Yesterday’s (post Wall Street closing) vote on raising the national debt ceiling was pretty much a tactical stunt. But MPR’s Brett Neely writes: “For Democrats like 1st District Rep. Tim Walz, voting to increase the debt ceiling is a necessary, albeit sometimes unpleasant, part of governing. ‘This is one of those issues that has all kinds of political theater wrapped in it, but it is one of the very few votes here that is very clear cut if you don’t get it done,’ Walz said. …[T]he United States needs to borrow more money or it will have to stop paying some of its debts. Many economists believe if that happens, interest rates will shoot up, potentially sending the economy back into a recession. That makes this a tough vote for Republicans who are close to the business community, including Erik Paulsen, who represents Minnesota’s 3rd District. He’s taking the party line and will vote against this increase in the debt ceiling. But in an interview with MPR News last week, Paulsen said a deal that cuts spending would get his vote and calm the markets. ‘I think Wall Street knows that the most important thing we can do to settle the markets or to keep the markets healthy and strong is to have a real spending plan put forward,’ Paulsen said.”

Winona Daily News editor Darrell Ehrlick clearly enjoys having a target as big as “tenther” third-term GOP legislator Steve Drazkowski: “ … in Drazkowski and his buddies’ dislike of any government except for their own, they would rather push hot buttons than solve other real problems in meaningful ways. Abortion? Not specifically in the Constitution. Let’s cut. Medicare or health care? Well, when the 10th was written in 1791, doctors were still using leaches, and a barber and a surgeon were interchangeable. Cut health care, too. What the new breed of tenthers hope, though, is something much different than a simple restating of what the federal government can or can’t do. Instead, those like Drazkowski believe they’ve discovered a long-forgotten, seldom used cudgel that states can use to bludgeon any laws they don’t like. Like a law? Great. Don’t? Well, we’ll just invoke the Tenth and move along.” I’m telling people GOP Chair Tony Sutton should be worried. “Draz” has what his people want in a loud, vehement voice.