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What happened, Wisconsin?

“Mr. Transportation” interested in D.C. post; fraudster’s fancy tastes; GOP rips Dayton budget; Boy Scout records; new Norovirus strain; RBC Plaza sale; and more.

Over at MPR, Paul Tosto crunches some numbers and wonders, “What happened, Wisconsin?” He says: “Last Friday, I dug into some economic comparisons between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Data showed Minnesota performed better than Wisconsin during the Great Recession and has greater strength in the recovery. One reader, though, suggested that the recession and post-recession years were too small a data sample to declare Minnesota the economic winner. So I went back looking for some long term comparisons on the economies of both. Well, from 1980 to 2000, the two states were neck-and-neck in key economic indicators. But then something happened in 2000. Wisconsin tailed off compared to Minnesota and the rest of the U.S. and has continued to lose ground. … As I said in the last post, the data don’t end the discussion about taxes and spending or the effects of fiscal policy on business decisions. But looking at the data, I’m wondering: How much does fiscal policy really matter to a state’s economy? And what’s happened to Wisconsin?” And, was alcohol involved?

It certainly seems like a good fit … . Corey Mitchell of the Strib says: “With the resignation of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, former Minnesota congressman Jim Oberstar, aka ‘Mr. Transportation,’ is being mentioned frequently in Washington parlor chatter about a successor. ‘If the administration is interested, and asks me, I will gladly serve,’ Oberstar said Tuesday. ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the legislative side of policy during my time in Congress … carrying out policy as a cabinet member would also be an exciting opportunity.’ Oberstar has not talked to White House staff or President Obama about the job and doesn’t plan to mount a campaign for the job, but he has contributed to the speculation by touting his credentials recently to Politico.”

Count the cliches of criminal ostentation in this story by Dan Browning and Paul Walsh of the Strib: “A 38-year-old man who rewarded himself with fancy cars and a five-figure Rolex watch was sentenced Tuesday to more than four years in prison for defrauding a Minneapolis radiologist and the son of his colleague out of $7.5 million. Evan M. Flaxman, of Silverthorne, Colo., was sentenced in federal court in Minneapolis to four years and four months in prison after pleading guilty six months ago to mail fraud. In his plea agreement, Flaxman admitted that he fleeced Dr. William J. Ford III, a diagnostic radiologist, and Eric Barron, the son of St. Louis Park orthopedic surgeon Stephen E. Barron, and spent their money on Ferraris, a Porsche race car, a Rolex and payment of more than $100,000 in personal income taxes. Prosecutors underscored that Flaxman also used the money for ‘significant expenses related to his multi-million-dollar home.’ His fraud was not borne of need, but simply so he could ‘live like a playboy.’ ”

Predictably … Megan Boldt of the PiPress says: “As state lawmakers continued to dissect Gov. Mark Dayton’s tax and spending plans, Republicans hammered at the DFLer’s proposed $1.4 billion property tax rebate arguing that writing homeowners a check doesn’t guarantee tax relief. … But Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said there is no assurance property tax bills will go down with Dayton’s rebate proposal because the state has no control over local spending unless it imposes levy limits. To him, the governor’s proposal to buy down property taxes seems to indicate locals can’t control their spending. ‘We can guarantee folks a tax increase, but we can’t guarantee them the tax relief,’ Thompson said. ‘I can’t imagine why we would take sales tax dollars out of the pocket of middle income and poor Minnesotan just to write a check to property owners’, said Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen. ‘I don’t know why we would do that unless …. Forgive me for being cynical, a reelection plan.’ ”

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A Minnesota judge is getting in the grille of the Boy Scouts. According to the AP story: “A Minnesota judge on Tuesday ordered the handover of confidential national Boy Scout records on sexual abuse from 1999 to 2008 in a move attorneys said could add to the body of evidence showing that the organization failed to take adequate steps to protect young people from molesters in its ranks. Ramsey County District Judge Elena Ostby issued the order in a lawsuit involving former suburban Minneapolis scoutmaster Peter Stibal II, who is serving a 21-year prison sentence for molesting four scouts in his troop. The lawsuit was filed by one of his victims.”

If you just got over the flu … KARE-TV’s Renee Tessman says: “A new strain of an intestinal bug is going around making Minnesotans sick. Norovirus is certainly unpleasant and it can be very, very hard to get rid of because its germs are difficult to wash away. Doctors say Norovirus is the most common cause of intestinal illness. It causes diarrhea, vomiting, cramps and sometimes fever. It peaks in winter and every few years, we get a new strain to which we are not immune. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the new strain, called the Sydney strain, is now here in Minnesota.”

President Obama is coming to town next week. For the Strib, Corey Mitchell (again)  says: “President Obama will visit Minneapolis on Monday, his first trip to Minnesota since winning a second term in November. White House officials have yet to disclose the time, location or purpose of the visit, but it comes on the heels of Obama unveiling aggressive proposals on immigration and gun control, both of which are hot-button issues in Minnesota.” I know a half-dozen people who know for sure he’s coming to grab their guns.

RBC Plaza in downtown Minneapolis has a new owner. Adam Belz of the Strib says: “A national real estate investment trust will pay $126.5 million for RBC Plaza in downtown Minneapolis, the firm said in a regulatory filing. KBS Real Estate Investment Trust will buy 609,368 rentable square feet of office space and 68,677 rentable square feet of retail space in the deal. … It is the latest in a string of developments at downtown properties, but this one is a good sign for Minneapolis, said Mark Kolsrud, a principal at commercial real estate services firm Cassidy Turley. KBS is what Kolsrud calls a ‘core buyer,’ meaning the firm only buys the best buildings in the best locations in the best cities, typically on the coasts.” So “the best cities” are “typically on the coasts,” are they?

News flash! South Dakota may soon be off limits to mass murderers. The AP says: “A bill that would allow school districts to arm teachers and other personnel with guns was approved Tuesday by the South Dakota House after supporters said it could make would-be attackers think twice about entering a school building. Representatives voted 42-17 to send the measure to the Senate for further debate. Supporters said school boards, particularly in rural areas where no law enforcement officers are stationed in school buildings, need the option of arming teachers, administrators or volunteers to protect against attacks like last month’s school shooting in Connecticut. Opponents countered that arming teachers could make schools more dangerous because it could lead to accidental shootings and put guns in the hands of people who are trained to teach, not shoot people.” Who said anything about “training”?