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Tax-by-miles-driven experiment flops

Prairie Island plant cited; free ACT tests touted; e-pulltab Reality Check; mayoral candidates weigh in on stadium funding; a squirrelly egg hunt; and more.

Interesting idea, though … Pat Doyle of the Strib says: “The idea intrigued Kathy Gillen: Pay highway taxes by the mile instead of the gallon. So the Otsego, Minn., resident signed on for one of the nation’s largest experiments to test how a state might keep track of miles a vehicle is driven. … The recent experiment involving 500 drivers in the region reflects a desire by state officials to find an alternative to the gasoline tax, a highway funding powerhouse that’s likely to diminish as cars become more fuel-efficient. The results, however, suggest that mileage fees face a long, bumpy road to becoming reality. The smartphone technology installed in the volunteers’ cars failed in about a third of the trips. Weak GPS signals caused problems.” No one needs to know how often I drive to that donut shop.

The feds have cited Prairie Island for a repair violation. The Forum papers say: “Prairie Island nuclear plant has been cited by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a violation involving the repair of a gas radiation monitor, the federal agency reported today. The violation has been assigned a white finding, which indicates low to moderate safety significance. The monitor, which is located on a ventilation system to detect radiation leaks at the plant, was placed on a repair list in July 2011 and remained out of service for roughly 10 months until plant workers repaired it in May 2012.”

It’s all about the test. The Strib editorializes in favor of free ACT testing for local students: “Making an ACT- or SAT-type test available to all teens boosts the number of kids who apply for college, as well as other postsecondary education options. Providing pre-ACT evaluations in elementary and middle schools also helps kids and families get an earlier start thinking about and preparing for careers. That’s essential for all youths in a global economy in which some post-high-school training is increasingly necessary to find a good job. Giving the test also opens opportunity for students from lower-income backgrounds who hadn’t even considered the exam because their families couldn’t afford it.”

WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler gets in on Reality-Checking the e-pulltab estimates: “There’s a lot of revisionist history going on at the Capitol about those pull tab revenue projections — numbers that Gov. Mark Dayton says no one knew were wildly inflated. But that’s not exactly true, according to lawmakers who tried to sound the alarm. Many lawmakers were skeptical about pull tabs from the very beginning, even when top state revenue officials said it would eventually generate $66 million, or more, every year. … lawmakers who supported slot machines at horse racing tracks — called Racino — cited studies in Iowa indicating more problems with e-pull tabs. Rep. Tom Hackbarth, (R-Cedar) said he tried to warn lawmakers — and the governor — about the faulty projections, but he says they ignored it.”

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Stadium financing got some debate time among Minneapolis mayoral candidates. Curtis Gilbert’s MPR story says: “Councilmember Gary Schiff, an outspoken stadium opponent, said if the state financing plan is overhauled next year, the city’s share of the funding should also be renegotiated. ‘This is the Minnesota Vikings, not the Minneapolis Vikings. We’re the only metropolitan area in the country that is paying for three sports facilities for separate-use professional teams. We need a regional solution,’ Schiff said. … The state share of the stadium funding is supposed to come from electronic pulltab revenues, which so far have returned far short of projections. Where Schiff sees that as an opportunity, Councilmember Betsy Hodges, also a stadium opponent, worries about how the state will respond. ‘My fear is that somewhere down the road, they’re going to come knocking at the city’s door to say ‘we’re going to need you to kick in more to save the Vikings and save the stadium,’ Hodges said. ‘When I’m mayor, the answer to that question will be, ‘no.’ ” And that’s for the record, right?

What were they thinking? Mary Jane Smetanka of the Strib writes: “Beady-eyed bandits watched from perches high above the ground Saturday as unsuspecting volunteers hid treat-filled plastic eggs for a kids’ ‘egg scramble’ in Richfield’s Augsburg Park. The 1,500 eggs had barely been placed on the snow and tucked between tree roots for 120 waiting children when the hairy hordes descended. ‘We tried to cover all our bases, but we weren’t ready for the squirrels,’ said Nick Thompson, a recreation supervisor for the city. ‘We noticed them … taking our eggs away.’ ” Squirrels always win. It’s what they do.

Hennepin county collected almost three and a half tons of unwanted medicines in one year. Madeleine Baran of MPR says: “The county began installing medicine disposal drop boxes last March. The program now has six boxes in libraries, law enforcement offices and courts. The self-serve boxes provide an alternative to tossing old meds in the trash, says Lisa Kiava, spokesperson for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. Medication that’s thrown in the garbage could end up in public water supplies — or in the hands of people looking to sell or abuse it. And given the widespread abuse of prescription painkillers, Kiava says, it’s important for people to securely dispose of any medication they no longer need.”

The Glean“Nationwide,” you say? Chris Vetter of the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram says: “Jake Leinenkugel is feeling a mixture of excitement and apprehension this week as Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. kicks off its first-ever national media campaign to promote Summer Shandy entering all markets nationwide. ‘I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime,’ said Leinenkugel, president of the company whose roots in Chippewa Falls date to 1867. ‘But this beer has become so popular, we’ve been getting calls from distributors coast-to-coast.’ While other Leinenkugel products have strong sales in the Midwest, this is the company’s first foray into national advertising and getting a beer into all 50 states in the company’s 146-year history.”

At City Pages, Aaron Rupar has a transcript of Glenn Beck — remember him? — explaining why the forces of evil are out to get Our Favorite Congresswoman.  Says Beck:

“You see what they’re doing to Michele Bachmann? Michele Bachmann is under all kinds of ethics investigations now. Why do you suppose that is? She’s evil? [sarcastically] Yeah, mmhmm. She is uber-clear on what’s going on. Uber clear. She’s in Minnesota. First of all, you have the nightmare of progressivism that runs rampant in Minnesota. But what else do you have in Minnesota? Do you know one of her districts is being settled by the State Department? Do you know the State Department just takes Somalis and just says, ‘Oh by the way all you guys from Somalia, ah, you’re going to go over here and we’re just going to develop a community for you here.’ In her district. And the State Department is just pushing them all into Minnesota. So she has asked the questions, Why? Why is my district how did that even happen? Why was my district selected for this? [Beck’s sidekick asks, ‘Has she gotten any answers’?] No, she hasn’t gotten any answers and now she’s under investigation.”

I wonder. Did Beck do one of his classic cause-and-effect diagrams? I always love those.