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(Temporarily) rosy budget picture for Minnesota

ALSO: Dayton, Walker push St. Croix Bridge; Macalester president rips Santorum; Spirit Airlines moving in; Delta shutting parts warehouse; and more.

It may not last long, but we’ll take it. Over at Politics in Minnesota Briana Bireschbach is saying, “The latest economic forecast puts Minnesota $323 million in the black for the remainder of the 2012-2013 biennium. The budget surplus can largely be attributed to a $230 million decrease in spending, mostly due to lower-than-anticipated enrollment in the state’s early Medical Assistance expansion provided under the federal health law for single adults. The state also took in about $93 million more in revenues than anticipated, state budget officials announced on Wednesday. Despite a desire from lawmakers to use the money to push major policy initiatives sought this session, the surplus already is spoken for under current law. The first $5 million will be used to replenish the state’s budget reserve, bringing the emergency fund to a total of $653 million. The remaining $318 million will be used to begin repaying more than $2 billion in state aid payments to school districts … .”

At MPR, Tom Scheck says, “The forecast also projects a $1.1 billion budget deficit in the next two-year budget cycle, which begins on July 1, 2013. Minnesota’s economy appears to be doing better than the national average, according to state economist Tom Stinson. But he added there hasn’t been much change in the economic outlook. ‘The bottom line is the U.S. economy is looking better, but not very much better than was expected,’ said Stinson. ‘And certainly it’s not booming. It’s still 2014 until jobs get back to their pre-recession levels.’ “

Hmmmmm …. . Did you catch the co-authored commentary in the Strib from Mark Dayton and Scott Walker, on the topic of the St. Croix bridge?  “In January, the Senate passed S. 1134, sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), by voice vote. Now we’re asking for the House to act quickly and pass this legislation as well. Minnesota and Wisconsin have the money for this project, and it’s actually shovel-ready, but first we need the House to approve a single, project-specific waiver to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The building of this bridge is the top issue to people in this region, and it’s an urgent issue. Given Minnesota’s state budget, if Minnesota doesn’t begin the project soon, the state will need to repurpose the money set aside for it. Without Minnesota’s contribution, this much-needed bridge cannot be built — meaning a huge transportation problem will go unresolved and promising new jobs will not be created. The bill represents bipartisanship at its finest.” The governors do not get into issues of what size bridge, or possible reallotment of resources for other projects.

Also a good read in the Strib … although it is a bit like pulling the wings off a fly … is Macalester President Brian Rosenberg’s take down of Rick Santorum. “In a well-documented speech in Steubenville, Ohio, this man who would be president asserted that global-warming claims were based on ‘phony studies’ and that climate science was in fact only ‘political science.’ ‘When it comes to the management of the earth, they’ — I’m not sure if this refers to all Democrats, all climate scientists, or all those who believe in evidence — ‘are the anti-science ones. We are the ones who stand for science, and technology.’ Could there be any more direct threat than this to the very foundations of education: the ability to formulate arguments based on evidence, to use language with precision, to think critically and analytically? This is not first and foremost about climate change; it is about the responsible and appropriate use of words, facts and ideas. Even those who challenge the findings of climate science should be able to acknowledge that its practitioners are scientists. To concede that Santorum’s remarks are within the bounds of the appropriate is to concede that our work as educators is pretty much meaningless.Then Rosenberg goes on to Santorum and the snobbery of “liberal college professors.” As I say, it’s almost too easy.

As anticipated, beloved hometown airline, Delta, is shutting its parts warehouse here and moving it to Atlanta. At the Strib, Wendy Lee says, “Delta Air Lines said it will shutter its warehouse at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on May 16 and move up to 66 workers to Atlanta. Delta distributed a memo Wednesday to local Delta employees who stock parts for Delta aircraft, informing them that there will be positions available to all employees interested in relocating to Atlanta. Employees were also told they could apply for open positions in other departments at MSP or within Delta.”

Related … Spirit Airlines is starting service out of here. At USA Today Ben Mutzabaugh writes, “The self-described ultra-low-cost carrier will fly from the Twin Cities to both Chicago O’Hare and Las Vegas starting May 31. Spirit will offer three daily round-trip flights to Chicago and one to Las Vegas. Though Spirit did not add nonstop service to its biggest hub in Fort Lauderdale, Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) travelers will be able to connect to eight other Spirit destinations — including Denver, New York LaGuardia and Los Angeles — via Chicago and Las Vegas. Spirit has grown rapidly at both of those airports during the past year and has now dubbed them ‘focus cities.’ Fort Lauderdale also will be a connecting option for Spirit’s MSP customers.

John Welbes at the PiPress says, “The limited number of $9 seats on Spirit flights actually cost $28.79 with taxes and fees, and other add-ons will increase the price for all seats. A carry-on bag typically costs $30 if you add it when booking online, or $35 at the airport. But if the bag will fit under your seat, it’s free. Pinson cautioned travelers not to show up at the gate and try to sneak on a carry-on at the last minute. That will cost you $45. The airline’s website also lists a booking fee of $10 per customer. Beverages and snacks are offered in-flight, but they’ll cost you from $1 to $15 for more exotic drinks. Spirit has been adding aircraft and routes in recent years. The flights out of Minneapolis-St. Paul will use Airbus A320 aircraft or Airbus A319s. Travelers may notice a little less legroom on the Spirit planes. Spirit’s A320, for example, seats 178 passengers, Pinson said, while another carrier may have 160 seats on the same aircraft.”  It’s giving me deep vein thrombosis just thinking about it.

Yeah, a second opinion … . Christopher Magan at the PiPress reports, “Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school officials have turned to the Minnesota Department of Administration to see if they properly handled requests for information regarding the separation agreement with Tania Z. Chance. Chance received a $254,814 payout from the district to end her employment seven months into a new two-year contract, and district officials won’t say why. Parts of her separation agreement released publicly were blacked out because school officials said they contained ‘private personnel data.’ Taya Moxley-Goldsmith of the Information Policy Analysis Division in the Department of Administration said Tuesday that school officials had requested an opinion from the agency, which aids in compliance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.”

Gov. Dayton, according to a Megan Boldt via MPR story in the PiPress is thinking “veto” on that teacher seniority bull. “Dayton this morning criticized a measure that [would] end the practice of using experience as the deciding factor when schools layoff of teachers, indicating he may veto the bill when it makes its way to his desk. The Republican-controlled House and Senate have passed different versions of the bill, which would require districts to base teacher layoffs primarily on performance rather than seniority. They are expected to send a compromised proposal to the DFL governor. ‘Right now it looks to me, frankly, more like an election ploy than serious legislation,’ the DFLer said on Minnesota Public Radio. Dayton questioned why Republican lawmakers are quick to pass such legislation before the state is finished crafting a new teacher evaluation system. ‘I think we’ll know a lot more in a couple of years, and then we can make an intelligent decision (on) exactly how to structure some alternative,’ he said.”  A delay also gives the GOP time to call the ALEC hotline for advice.