A $250 million tax subsidy, this one for the Mall of America, hasn’t received much attention to date. But Tom Webb at the PiPress writes: “A long-dormant plan to double the size of Mall of America — adding hotels, a waterpark, a performing arts center, office towers and hundreds of stores — seems to be coming back to life. But it hinges on the Minnesota Legislature, which is being asked for up to $250 million in tax breaks to pay for the project’s parking ramps, roads and other infrastructure. The plan has drawn scant public attention so far, but it is starting to stir controversy as lawmakers move close to granting the request. Both the House and Senate have given initial approval to tax breaks the megamall says it needs to jump-start a $1.5 billion expansion that has stalled since it first was unveiled in 2006. Gov. Mark Dayton supports the idea.” So why not make the Vikings play there and kill two handouts with one check?
The GOP race for governor is ramping up. Tom Meersman of the Strib says: “Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson made it official on Sunday: He wants the state’s top job. At a news conference at a community hall in Hamel, just west of Plymouth, Johnson said he wants to replace Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014 because the state is heading in the wrong direction. ‘If we do not correct our course — soon — I am afraid that the greatness of Minnesota is in serious jeopardy,’ he said. Johnson, 46, is the second Republican to announce his candidacy for the party’s nomination. Orono businessman Scott Honour launched his campaign late last month, and several more candidates are expected to follow. … Johnson said he will abide by his party’s endorsement at its state convention in June 2014, and he will not mount a primary challenge if not selected.” I always love the “we’re losing our greatness” bit.
Hey! We’ll handle the knucklehead jabs, thanks just the same. The editorial board of the Newark Star Ledger in New Joisie writes: “[W]e in the ‘Knucklehead of the Week’ department like to make our own selections, Governor [Christie]. … As for Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), it’s a wonder she made it through the 2011-12 GOP presidential debates without a ‘knucklehead’ nod. She’s made a political career of making stuff up. This week, we’re putting her back in the spotlight. Bachmann — a tea party darling — recently claimed she voted against the federal budget sequester because it would cut funding for the poor, and programs such as Head Start and Meals on Wheels. As Mitt Romney liked to say, ‘We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.’ … She indeed voted against the sequester, but there’s no evidence she warned against its ‘calamities,’ as she claimed. What’s more, she actually argued for deeper cuts to those poor-friendly programs.”
Previously, Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post had written: “We searched high and low for any statements that Bachmann made at the time warning about the ‘calamities’ that would fall on the poor because of budget cuts. What we found instead were comments by Bachmann complaining that the Budget Control Act did not cut spending enough. She especially decried the fact that the debt ceiling was increased, arguing instead that the government could avoid default simply by making immediate and steep cuts. … ‘Someone has to say NO to more spending. I will.’ … In other words, Bachmann in her statements and comments at the time wanted to cut spending even more — except for defense spending. The current sequester cuts security and non-security spending by equal amounts, so presumably under Bachmann’s 2011 formula, the cutting of non-security programs that she now says ‘breaks everyone’s hearts’ would have been deeper.”
Two DFLers write a Strib commentary reminding readers that the state’s transportation “to do” list is quite a bit larger and more expensive than generally acknowledged. Sen. Vicki Jensen and Rep. Jason Metsa write: “While some issues at the Capitol will always be contentious, we never thought that transportation funding and policy would join the ranks of taxes and health care. … Unfortunately, Minnesota faces a $21 billion transportation deficit. That means our transportation needs significantly outpace the available funding for roads and bridges. Even during this legislative session, lawmakers have submitted more than $1.4 billion in transportation requests that cannot be met, because we lack the ability to adequately fund transportation.”
And the new Teacher of the Year is … “Often, [Megan Olivia] Hall is in her classroom with the door open,” says Will Ashenmacher of the PiPress, “extending a standing invitation for students to come by to receive extra help or get to know Hall better. That commitment is part of the reason why Hall was named Minnesota Teacher of the Year at a ceremony in Brooklyn Park on Sunday, May 5. … Hall teaches life science, AP Environmental Science and biology at [Open World Learning Community] in downtown St. Paul. She started volunteering there in 2000 and joined the faculty in 2006.”
A recent study/estimate said Minnesota as a whole would profit from gay marriage. But state employees are another matter … Baird Helgeson of the Strib says: “Budget officials have determined the state would have to spend $688,000 each year to provide health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of state employees. Those costs will be slightly offset by thousands of dollars in fees collected from gay couples getting marriage licenses in the state. In another twist, budget officials are banking on 86 same-sex couples getting a divorce in 2015 and collecting fees from those divorce filings.” But gay marriage counseling would be a net gain for private therapists, right?
MnDOT is getting tired of all the wrecks in the Lowry Tunnel. Tim Harlow of the Strib says: “From 2007 to 2012, MnDOT data show there have been 70 crashes in the immediate area. The latest have renewed discussions on how best to improve safety for the 153,000 motorists who pass through the tunnel each day. … MnDOT is planning a major pavement rehabilitation project on I-94 between Nicollet Avenue and I-694 in 2016 or 2017. But because the freeway’s near right-angled turn is wedged between the Walker Art Center and two historic churches (Hennepin Avenue United Methodist and St. Mark’s Episcopal), there is little room for reconfiguration.” Then there’s the all-day eastbound bottleneck around Dunwoody …
Two local attorneys argue in favor of “ban the box” legislation … In the Strib business section, Joseph Schmitt and Veena Iyer write: “The Minnesota Senate voted in April to adopt so-called “ban-the-box” legislation restricting employers’ ability to inquire into applicants’ criminal histories. The legislation prohibits employers from asking applicants about their criminal histories or performing a background check until the applicant has been selected for an interview or offered employment. … This legislative and regulatory activity is a product of the fact that an increasing number of Americans have a criminal record — recent estimates are one in four. And a disproportionate number of that group are minorities. One in three African-American men and one in six Latino men are estimated to have criminal records.” MinnPost chose to ignore my two expired tabs citations.