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Minnesota surplus news is a stunner

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Surplus reaction runs gamut; Target misses sales projections; a cougar sighting — and shooting; bye-bye, McNabb; lawyer’s memo attacks Catholics; and more.
Read Thur. Morning Edition


Well, color me — and everyone else — shocked. Instead of another mega-deficit, the word is the state is looking at an $876 million surplus. Joe Kimball has our report. Over at MPR, Tom Scheck is saying: “The 2011 fiscal year balance was $526 million greater than expected, and state spending was $205 million below estimates, resulting in the expected balance of $876 million for the 2012-13 legislative biennium.The forecast wasn’t all sunny. It projected a deficit of $1.3 billion for fiscal years 2014-15. Most of the reduced spending was in Health and Human Services, the forecast said. It did not detail reasons for the lower spending. Budget officials were discussing the forecast at a midday news conference. … Supporters of public funding for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium are likely to relish Thursday’s news, given previous fears that another state deficit would make it hard for lawmakers to back state money for a private businessman’s project. While stadium supporters had been hoping for a special legislative session for a stadium vote prior to Jan. 24, the forecast lack of a looming deficit will leave much more room for stadium politics in the regular session.”

At the Strib, Baird Helgeson and Rachel Stassen-Berger write: “The surplus will turn the traditional budget fights on their head. Earlier this summer, legislators beat down a $5 billion deficit to end a 20-day state government shutdown. Now, Republican lawmakers and the DFL governor may have to fight over how and whether to spend the windfall, bank it for troubled times or pay back a school shift that rankles all sides. Minnesota’s economy has shown steady improvement the last few years, but the state’s economic health remains at the mercy of political and financial tumult nationally and in the world economy, such as the failure of the so-called supercommittee in Washington and the debt crisis in Europe. There are signs a few shards of green are starting to poke through in Minnesota’s economic recovery. The state’s economy is doing better than the nation, with unemployment dipping to 6.4 percent and more money flowing into state coffers.”

In another post, Stassen-Berger writes: “The entire surplus, the state economic gurus said, is legally obligated to be used for refilling the state’s depleted cash flow account, sort of like a state checking account, and its budget reserve, which is like the state’s savings account. Current law, which could always [be] changed, allocates $255 million to the cash flow account and $621 million to the budget reserve.”

Over at the PiPress, Doug Belden reports: “Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, issued a statement just after Schowalter’s news conference began saying “Minnesota politicians should not repeat past mistakes and use a small budget surplus to offer tax cuts or rebates to tax payers. This surplus should be used to move us toward a responsible budget by paying back tobacco bonds and paying down the school shift.’ Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said the surplus shows ‘living within your means works. The Dayton tax hike plan is dead,’ Koch said. ‘This Legislature has no interest in raising taxes.’ Koch said the surplus dollars are general fund money and should not be used for a potential Vikings stadium. She said she expects the announcement of the surplus will have no impact on the ongoing stadium debate. House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, agreed that the forecast balance is unrelated to the stadium finance discussion, calling them ‘totally separate issues.’ “

December better be better. Target missed analysts’ projections for November. Says the Strib’s David Phelps: “Target Corp. Thursday reported a 3 percent increase in year-over-year sales for November but acknowledged the figure was at the low end of their expectations. Target chairman and CEO Gregg Steinhafel said the $6.2 billion performance during the month ‘compared against a very strong performance last year.’ Same-store sales, a key retail indicator, were up 1.8 percent in November compared to 5.5 percent last year. Steinhafel said sales this November were strongest on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, ‘as guests responded to our midnight opening and compelling prices.’ ” Were you a compelled guest?

They bagged a cougar out by Worthington. Justine Wettschreck of the Worthington Daily Globe reports: “Bruce Ihlen got one of the biggest surprises of his life Sunday night when he was finishing up chores at his brother’s Round Lake Township farm around 6:30 p.m. ‘I came out and saw a cougar come out of the grove and run into the ditch,’ Ihlen said. ‘Then it went into the culvert.’  Ihlen had his vehicle lights trained on the spot where the cougar had entered the culvert. He called a neighbor and the two of them chased the big cat out of hiding. ‘Then Daniel (Hamman) shot him,’ Ihlen said. Ihlen said he has never seen a cougar in the area before, nor had Hamman.‘It was kind of a freak deal’,,he admitted.”

Unfortunately, says Dave Orrick at the PiPress, “It’s illegal to shoot mountain lions, or cougars, in the state, and an agency spokesman Wednesday said the animal posed no immediate threat, raising the possibility of legal action against the shooter.”

So long, Donovan. According to Sports Illustrated (via an ESPN tweet), the soon-to-be-Super Bowl-champion Vikings have released veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb: “McNabb, 35, has not played for the Vikings since rookie Christian Ponder took over the starting role for the club in Week 7. In six games with Minnesota this season, the former Pro Bowler posted a 82.9 passer rating while throwing for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns.” BTW, Sunday’s game versus Denver will not be blacked out.

Apparently, The Reformation lives in Minnesota Bankruptcy Court. David Hanners at the PiPress says: “In the sedate and sober world of bankruptcy law, one lawyer’s memorandum sticks out like a sore loser. ‘Across the country the court systems and particularly the Bankruptcy Court in Minnesota, are composed of a bunch of ignoramus, bigoted Catholic beasts that carry the sword of the church,’ the Nov. 25 filing said. It went on to call one bankruptcy judge ‘a Catholic Knight Witch Hunter,’ said one trustee was ‘a priest’s boy’ and claimed another trustee is a ‘Jesuitess.’ It got worse from there. Hastings lawyer Rebekah Nett also called U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Nancy Dreher and other court personnel ‘dirty Catholics.’ Then she expressed concerns over what might transpire at a hearing docketed for next week, writing, ‘Catholic deeds throughout the history have been bloody and murderous.’ ” A “Jesuitess” you say? The mere idea inflames the imagination of this old altar boy.