The teachers pension rescue bill is moving along … MaryJo Webster says in the PiPress: “A bill to provide $7 million in annual state aid to a pension fund for teachers in the St. Paul School District will move to the full Legislature. Lawmakers on the Legislative Commission for Pensions and Retirement on Tuesday … voted 10 to 4 to advance the bill. Along with the aid, the bill also includes increased contributions and cost savings measures in an effort to close the retirement fund’s $16.7 million annual gap between what it needs and what it actually brings in. The commission also approved a similar measure that includes $6 million in annual state aid for the Duluth Teachers Retirement Fund Association and approved a Teachers Retirement Association proposal to change early retirement benefit reductions in an effort to encourage teachers to keep working until at least age 62.” I know someone at MaryJo’s paper who’s going to need a defibrillator after he hears this.
Save the decrepit warehouse! Also in the PiPress, Frederick Melo reports: “St. Paul has launched a new website dedicated to the regional ballpark planned for Lowertown — Lowertownballpark.com — and the mayor has reiterated his intention to tear down a vacant warehouse rather than partially reuse it. Some residents touting a plan to create parking in the warehouse are livid. … . As for a plan to reuse the Gillette/Diamond Products warehouse, the mayor noted that with excavation and retrofitting, the idea would add between $7.2 million and $16.2 million to the existing $52 million to $54 million ballpark price tag.” So …? Get some electronic gambling.
Who said, “E-pulltabs?” At WCCO-TV, Pat Kessler reports that some legislators are getting restless about the numbers: “Minnesota state lawmakers waded back into details of the Vikings stadium project Tuesday, amid building concerns about the reliability of tax revenue from gambling to pay the state’s share. … The first construction bonds are scheduled to be sold in August, and Rep. Jim Davnie of Minneapolis said before lawmakers adjourn next month they should have strong assurances that the state will have enough money to make payments on those bonds before they’re sold. ‘I think a lot of people are apprehensive,’ said Davnie, a Democrat who voted against the stadium in 2012 and who expressed concerns at the time about the state’s funding source. ‘Clearly the funding in the bill passed last year is not happening on the timeline anticipated.’ ”
The governor isn’t exactly onboard with the idea of an investigation into how things got so screwed up. Tim Pugmire of MPR writes: “The ensuing judgment over the less-than-expected gambling revenue needed to fund the state’s share of a new NFL stadium is premature and politically motivated, Gov. Mark Dayton said. Republican critics have called for an investigation into the miscalculation. But Dayton said an investigation would be a waste of taxpayer money. … ‘What is there to investigate? I mean there were honest assumptions made,’ Dayton said. ‘If somebody thinks there was wrongdoing then they should definitely produce the evidence that would support that. Otherwise, it’s slow getting off to a start. Everybody agree with that. We missed the projections. Everybody agrees with that. We’re working to correct it.’ ” So when do we say the idea has passed the point of “getting off to a slow start?”
Oh, excuse me … Tim Nelson at MPR says: “Dayton also repeated his assertion that the stadium financing will work out in the end. He says the stadium law already spells out a funding alternative, and that there’s no reason for the legislature to make further changes to the plan. ‘You know, there’s a backup of the surcharge on the suites, and also another gambling game, a lottery themed after the Vikings… I think this rush to judgment is very premature… A year from now, we’ll have a firm basis to decide whether this is going to be sufficient as a source of funding, after it gets going, after we’ve got public acceptance around the state.’ ” So April 2014, a of couple months after the Metrodome is torn down.
But is this tax relief for job creators? Bill Salisbury of the PiPress says: “Thousands of Minnesota homeowners and renters would become eligible for property tax refunds for the first time next year and thousands more would get larger refund checks under a House Democratic plan announced Tuesday … The plan delivers on a campaign promise that House DFL candidates made last year to provide more property tax relief, said Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, chief architect of the plan and the chairman of a House property tax panel. … More than 100,000 additional homeowners would be eligible for refunds under the plan, and some 300,000 homeowners (three-fourths of all filers) would see their refunds increase by an average of $212, according to state Revenue Department estimates.”
The Strib gives House Majority Leader Paul Thissen space to slap back at their dismissal of his budget. Says Thissen: “[T]he Star Tribune too readily accepts the long-held Republican talking point that if we increase taxes on the very wealthiest Minnesotans — even by a fraction — then ‘job creators’ will flee the state. Check with economists who have studied the issue; the facts don’t bear this out. If this theory were true, businesses would have left long ago for the likes of Mississippi and other ‘low-tax, low-value’ states. I’ve also spoken with local Fortune 500 CEOs who acknowledge that they’ll continue to attract and retain great Minnesota talent if this temporary surcharge becomes law. Second, the Star Tribune wrongly assumes the temporary surcharge would significantly affect small businesses. In fact, our surcharge would affect less than 3 percent of Minnesota small-business owners.”
It’ll be interesting watching him sell this … Pam Louwagie of the Strib says: “In defense attorney John Kucinski’s opening statement … he described months of concern by Aaron Schaffhausen’s ex-wife and family that he was depressed, catatonic at times and needed help. He had made threats to ex-wife Jessica Schaffhausen, at one point telling her on the phone that he wanted to come to River Falls, tie her up and make her choose which of the girls to kill so that she would understand the hurt and pain he was feeling, Kucinski said evidence will show. … He added that his client’s acts were the result of an extremely rare and complex psychological condition.”
At City Pages, Olivia LaVecchia files a feature piece on roughly half of the human race’s idea of a dream job. She writes: “Near dusk on a crisp March day, Matt Blum arrives at an apartment building in the Warehouse District and takes the elevator to the third floor. … To date, nearly 8,000 women have signed on to participate in Blum’s nude photography initiative, The Nu Project. That’s thousands of women from across the world willing to allow Blum to come to their homes, take naked pictures of them, and post those images to the internet. … But since Blum started the project in 2005, about 90 percent of his participants have come from the Minneapolis area. … Blum started the project because he wanted to shoot nudes with character and diversity, two traits he found missing from most naked portraits he saw. But as more women signed on, Blum realized that something he hadn’t expected was taking place. ‘Almost everybody who participated said it contributed to some part of their mentality about themselves shifting,’ says Blum.”