In case you were wondering whom to thank for the state’s $323 million surplus … Jennifer Brooks of the Strib writes: “Senate Majority Leader David Senjem celebrated news of the state’s higher-than-expected revenue in February and March – and suggested the GOP deserves at least some of the credit. ‘This additional surplus is now a trend,’ Senjem, R-Rochester, said in a statement Wednesday. ‘It is a result of many factors but certainly one of those factors is the spending restraint Republicans exercised and tax policies we implemented last session.’ Minnesota Management and Budget announced Tuesday that revenues were 4.4 percent higher than the February forecast had predicted. The state took in an additional $106 million. ‘It was only one year ago that we were facing a $5 billion deficit in our state’s budget,’ Senjem’s statement concluded. ‘Today — after making some tough decisions — we are in a position where Minnesota can move forward and thrive. Republicans will not rest on our laurels but continue to prioritize policies like those that led to these successes and put Minnesota on the path to prosperity.’ ” Why, that gay marriage thing alone must have generated a couple hundred million of that.
A cop never knows whom he’s pulling over. Joe Kemp of the New York Daily News reports: “A Staten Island man wanted for raping his girlfriend’s relative more than two years ago was nabbed in Minnesota after a traffic stop, authorities announced Wednesday. Emmanuel Parker, 25 — one of the borough’s 10 most wanted fugitives — was pulled over by a state trooper just outside of Minneapolis about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, authorities said. The officer ran Parker’s information through a federal law enforcement database, the National Crime Information Center, and saw he was wanted in New York for raping a woman in 2010, authorities said. Parker waived extradition before a Minnesota judge on Monday and is expected to be taken back to New York next week to face rape charges.”
A bit more, this time from Fredereka Schouten and Christopher Schnaars at USA Today, on how Mitt Romney came to Tim Pawlenty’s debt assistance: “More than half the political donations Republican Tim Pawlenty received since ending his White House bid came from Mitt Romney’s donors, who helped erase the campaign debt of a politician whose early exit and endorsement boosted Romney, a USA TODAY analysis shows. … Romney loyalists, including 11 members of his family, several key fundraisers, his campaign aides and employees of the private-equity firm he helped create, donated more than $330,000 to Pawlenty since Aug. 14 when he withdrew from the race after a third-place finish in Iowa’s straw poll, according to the USA TODAY analysis. The former Minnesota governor endorsed Romney less than a month later. … The USA TODAY analysis found that more than 160 Romney donors contributed after Pawlenty ended his campaign. They include Romney’s five sons, his campaign manager Matt Rhoades and dozens of prominent supporters, including Robert ‘Woody’ Johnson IV, the owner of the New York Jets football team and a top Romney fundraiser.”
Chris Good at ABC News adds: “Pawlenty paid off $45,000 of that debt by selling his database of supporter contacts to American Action Network, the GOP 501(c)4 political group run by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman and GOP fundraiser and strategist Fred Malek. Pawlenty, 51, also received donations from the PACs affiliated with former 2012 rival and fellow Minnesotan Rep. Michele Bachmann, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California; Rep. Mike Castle’s, R-Del., re-election campaign; and former eBay CEO and 2010 GOP California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. He received a total of $2,450 from three of his former staffers: campaign communications director Alex Conant, former gubernatorial chief of staff Charles Weaver and former gubernatorial deputy chief of staff Brian McClung.” Really?
Save the Honey Crisps! Kim Palmer, at the Strib, reports: “Minnesota’s apple growers are on edge after two nights of below-freezing temperatures, threatening the delicate buds that formed weeks ahead of schedule, thanks to this year’s balmy March. No one knows what, if any, damage has been done or how it will affect this year’s apple crop, but many growers are going to extremes to protect their crops. ‘This could be devastating,’ Schaper said. Spring bloom is a sensitive time for apple trees, according to David Bedford, research scientist and apple breeder at the University of Minnesota. ‘Well-bred apples from the University of Minnesota can withstand 30 below [in winter] when they’re dormant,’ he said. ‘We’ve got that part figured out. But in spring, right before they bloom, is the beginning of their most vulnerable period of cold tolerance.’ For a handful of days, from buds opening to full flowering, a few degrees can make an enormous difference, Bedford said. At 28 degrees, growers can expect about 10 percent of flowers to be damaged. At 25 degrees, the percentage can increase to 90 percent. ‘There’s not a big span between minor and major damage.’ “
My apologies to the Strib for not noting yesterday that its questioning had coaxed out the news that Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn had resigned in the face of an investigation into his personal conduct. Thomas Lee follows today, writing: “The news stunned investors and industry analysts, who called the accusations a major distraction at a time when Best Buy is trying to fix its ailing stores. Less than two weeks ago, Dunn said that Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer, will close 50 stores nationwide and lay off thousands of workers. ‘It’s unfortunate that a case of [Dunn’s] poor judgment got in the way of Best Buy making progress,’ said Carol Spieckerman, president of newmarketbuilders, a retail consulting firm. The allegations ‘are going to be a real hit to the company’s credibility.’ … For investors, the key question is who replaces Dunn. The company named board director G. ‘Mike’ Mikan as interim CEO. Analysts threw out some outside possibilities, including former Best Buy executive and current Advance Auto Parts CEO Darren Jackson and Charles Dunstone, chairman of British retailer Carphone Warehouse, who helped develop the highly successful Best Buy Mobile format.”
Also at the Strib, Corey Mitchell reports that Tarryl Clark has raised pretty good money for her run against Chip Cravaack: “Former DFL state Sen. Tarryl Clark, a U.S. House candidate in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, raised $320,971 in the first three months of the year in her bid to unseat first-term Republican Chip Cravaack. Clark’s campaign reports that she now has $418,266 in the bank. By comparison, Cravaack’s campaign had roughly $515,000 in cash through the end of 2011. His campaign has not yet released his fundraising totals for the first quarter. The other two Democratic 8th District candidates, Duluth City Council member Jeff Anderson and former Congress Rick Nolan, also have not released their fundraising totals for the first quarter. At the end of 2011, Nolan had almost $36,000 in the bank while Anderson had nearly $13,200. Until Cravaack defeated former Congressman Jim Oberstar in the 2010 election, the seat had been a DFL lock since the 1940s. As part of their effort to recapture control of the U.S. House, leaders of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — which supports Democratic House candidates — have listed Cravaack’s seat as a top target since last summer.”
Yet another assault on our precious Second Amendment freedoms! The AP reports: “A state appeals court says Wisconsin’s ban on felons possessing firearms is constitutional. Thomas Pocian of Hartford is fighting charges that he went deer hunting with his father’s gun in 2008 even though he was convicted of felony forgery in 1986. He has argued the state’s prohibition on felons possessing guns is unconstitutionally broad and shouldn’t apply to him because he didn’t commit a violent crime. The 2nd District Court of Appeals disagreed. The court pointed to a 2010 federal appeals court ruling that found banning felons from possessing guns is constitutional.”
Completion of the giant St. Croix bridge project has been moved up … a year. Mary Divine of the PiPress writes: “Construction is slated to start in the spring of 2013, and bridge construction would start in the fall of that year, Minnesota Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday night … Construction is expected to take three years. Jon Chiglo, MnDOT’s assistant commissioner, announced the new construction timeline at the Oak Park Heights City Council meeting. ‘I think over time there’s been a lot of discussion about design, and it’s important for us to move into construction process and the construction phase of this job,’ said Chiglo, who is serving as project manager for the St. Croix River bridge project. ‘On projects this size, you usually have funding constraints or you have environmental constraints,’ said Chiglo, who oversaw the reconstruction of the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis. ‘We’ve gotten through the environmental process, and we’ve got the funding in place, and now it’s time to move into construction and implementation phase.’ ” A request for proposals for the bridge design went out in March, with submissions due by April 27, Chiglo said. A designer should be selected by mid-May.” … $20 says, “Concrete monstrosity … with ‘artistic’ lighting.”
Need a high-paying job? Check out the Met Council. Frederick Melo at the PiPress says: “The Met Council’s workforce is going gray, so the regional planning agency is turning to Twitter and the youngest of the boomers to find skilled workers to fill a growing number of positions open because of retirement. While unemployment in Minnesota is still high relative to boom years, Met Council officials said they’re having trouble finding the right people for some of their highest-paid openings, a sign the economy is improving. The planning agency has posted ‘help wanted’ videos online and tweeted its need for engineers, information technology professionals and staffers familiar with rail electro-mechanics — the finer points of railroad operations — among other specialties. The Met Council, which has 3,600 employees, reported 142 staff retirements last year. It had 130 in 2010 and 105 in 2009.”