At the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Sarah Kliff encourages readers to take a look at Minnesota just-posted health insurance exchange website: “The best way to get a handle on the concept of a health insurance exchange is to see what one looks like. This afternoon, Minnesota gives us a chance to do that: the state just released a set of five prototypes — drawn up by a consulting firm — for what its exchange could look like in 2014. … Click through to the Minnesota Department of Commerce site and you can play around with the module simulations, which ask questions about where you live and how much you earn to determine what health benefits you might be eligible to receive. Minnesota still hasn’t figured out what exactly its final exchange will look like. Since every state has the opportunity to design its own exchange, most will probably look somewhat different. Utah and Massachusetts, the two states that now operate exchanges, show how different marketplaces could look.”
Not so fast. A Ramsey County judge has pulled the emergency brake on the day-care unionization vote. Mike Kaszuba and Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib writes: “Ramsey County District Judge Dale Lindman issued a temporary restraining order to stop the election Gov. Mark Dayton ordered last month. ‘I just believe the process should go through’ the Legislature, Lindman said. Opponents, which include Republicans in the Minnesota Senate, said Dayton’s order delved into things that are beyond the scope of his power. The Minnesota Senate’s friend-of-the-court brief called Dayton’s executive order ‘unprecedented and lawless, exceeding his scope of constitutional and statutory authority and usurping legislative power.’ ‘We are encouraged by Judge Lindman’s decision to halt day care union election [and] will continue to stand in support of our day care providers,’ GOP Sen. Mike Parry said on Twitter. At several points during a three-hour hearing Monday, Lindman challenged lawyers for Dayton and two unions that want the childcare union election to proceed. Why not ‘simply submit this to the Legislature in the form of a bill (and) we don’t have this whole issue?’ the judge asked.”
Hey, Vikings fans, do you bleed enough Purple to buy a license for the rights to your seat and a ticket to the game? MPR’s Tim Nelson files a report on the revenue possibilities of “seat licenses”: “If the Vikings employ seat licenses to raise money, fans would buy their seat from the team and pay for game tickets separately, much like condo owners pay separate association dues. Under such arrangements, teams typically offer side benefits like free parking or even locker room access. Fans can also sell their seat license — like real estate. Although stadium financing experts say they’re likely to be a factor in Minnesota, team officials are guarded about their possible use. ‘Personal seat licenses are a vehicle that can be used to help finance a stadium,’ Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said. ‘We have not made a decision as to whether or not to pursue [them].’ For teams, seat licenses are ready money. Not every seat in NFL stadiums is licensed, but about 60 percent of seats in new stadiums are. On average, and adjusted for inflation, NFL seat licenses have cost about $3,000 each.” You may be eligible for a free set of plastic horns.
The Albert Lea Tribune editorializes on why the Vikings’ stadium dream will fail in the next session: “The stadium being proposed is not in Minneapolis. They might be called the Minnesota Vikings, but the team has a 30-year relationship with the state’s largest city. … The former Army dump in Arden Hills surely needs to be cleaned up, but that’s another issue. There just isn’t the transportation grid to bring 80,000 people to this northern suburb. Besides, common sense says people from southern Minnesota don’t want to drive to northern suburbs, just as anyone from northern Minnesota would dislike driving to southern suburbs. Minneapolis is the state’s gathering place, and it has two sites that have the support for transportation. … Besides, the price tag of a Minneapolis stadium would be less than one in Arden Hills, by all reasonable estimates. … if there must be a public portion of the stadium, it ought to be funded just like Target Field and the Metrodome were — a local tax. … But near Halloween, state leaders declared sales taxes to be off the table, leaving little else besides gambling as a primary funding stream. It seems in poor taste to fund a sports stadium with gambling. Pro sports and gambling don’t mix well. Leave that to Las Vegas.” Actually, I believe pro sports and gambling mix … a lot.
Simultaneously, the St. Cloud Times offers the opinion that the Vikings are doing all the right things: “[Y]ou have to credit the Minnesota Vikings for commitment and creativity. They are committed to working with public partners to examine most any suggested solution. And they are creative in offering some solutions themselves. … The Vikings’ willingness to work with public partners was put to its biggest test to date last week when Sen. Julianne Ortman, chairwoman of the Senate Taxes Committee, essentially demanded the Vikings revisit conversations with Minneapolis leaders about potential stadium sites in that city … the Vikings agreed to talk with Minneapolis and narrow those three sites to one. … That shows they are committed to working on most any solution, not just the plan from which they might gain the most. The Vikings also last week highlighted their creativity when it comes to funding a stadium. In a statewide advertising campaign, the team went public with a funding strategy often talked about but seldom pursued. The Vikings want all taxes generated by their operations to be put toward funding the public share of a stadium. This means all income taxes of Vikings players and staff as well as those of visiting teams, plus sales taxes generated at the site. … We don’t see it as a serious solution — and certainly not as broadly beneficial as using gambling revenues from the sales of electronic pull tabs statewide. Still, it’s creative — and between it and the Vikings’ commitment to working with others, the team deserves credit.” In other words, “talk” and not “a serious solution.”
At The Onion’s A.V. Club, the Twin Cities’ Christopher Bahn likes the sound of the latest Twin Cities Beatles Project CD: “As new local traditions go, few could be better or more welcome than the Minnesota Beatle Project, now in its third year of collecting Fab Four covers to raise money for music and art education. As on previous editions, Vol. 3 is heavy on rootsy folk-rockers and indie bands, with a notable absence of hip-hop. But if the roster could’ve been more comprehensive, the album doesn’t lack for passion, joy, and listenability.”
The July shutdown has electrical inspections in flux around the state and $700K missing from the public coffers. Brian Johnson at Finance & Commerce writes: “Before the shutdown, 53 municipalities, including the University of Minnesota and the state fairgrounds, handled their own electrical inspections, and another 56 cities adopted electrical inspection ordinances during the shutdown, said James Honerman, communications director for the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Twenty-five of those 56 cities adopted permanent electrical inspection ordinances post-shutdown, for a current tally of 78 municipalities. This adds up to about 10,000 fewer electrical permits issued by the state annually, a projected fee loss of $700,000, Honerman said. Overall, the department is looking at about a 10 percent reduction in both permit counts and inspection fee revenue, he noted.”
The League of Rural Voters begs to differ with Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. In a commentary in the Bemidji Pioneer, the group’s policy director, Cynthia Moothart, says: “Some important facts get in the way of total jubilation over Minnesota’s projected $876 million budget surplus. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch used the announcement to promote GOP budget-cutting provisions this legislative session … Overlooked by Sen. Koch is the fact that a majority of this so-called windfall had nothing to do with her party’s budget but arose from falling health-care costs. In reality, the GOP budget she promotes sets us back in critically important ways. Republicans balanced their budget by delaying $1.4 billion in payments to our K-12 schools and borrowing an additional $757 million from the state’s tobacco settlement. Repayment dates on those loans already have been set. Savings also came from eliminating the homestead tax credit and by slashing local government aid. Those also don’t come without a price tag: Communities across Minnesota already are being forced to increase local taxes simply to provide basic services.”
Bill McAuliffe of the Strib reports on progress toward a $1.8 billion diversion channel around Fargo and Moorhead. “The 36-mile ditch — wider and deeper than most of the region’s rivers — is designed to let flood-weary Fargo and Moorhead breathe easy even in the face of a 1-percent-chance flood, which would bring about as much water as the record 2009 flood. Beyond that, it will all but eliminate what has become a nearly annual springtime ritual — multimillion-dollar sandbagging efforts by volunteers and construction of temporary clay dikes by public workers — while accommodating miles of dry-weather recreational trails and picnic areas. Flood fighting in 2009 cost Fargo and Moorhead about $50 million, but helped avoid major property damage. The Army Corps of Engineers has determined that losing the fight against a 500-year-flood could cause more than $10 billion in damage. The diversion would take 6.7 feet off the crest of a 500-year flood in the cities, said Aaron Snyder, project management supervisor for the corps. It would knock about 12 feet off a 100-year flood crest, which is about a foot higher than what the cities saw in 2009.”