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Will state cigarette tax drive smokers across the borders?

Fifth/Seventh streets plan; one cow dies of anthrax; pedal pub complaints; MnSCU economic impact; scratch-offs power lottery sales; stem-cell help for baby hearts; and more.

Another day and yet another onerous tax certain to drive customers to another state. Mark Zdechlik of MPR says: “Business is booming at Maplewood Tobacco, as a steady stream of customers tries to stock up before Minnesota’s cigarette tax jumps $1.60 a pack on July 1. ‘People been buying like crazy. I mean we’ve got a few customers buying 10 cartons, 20 cartons, cases of little cigars,’ store manager Anan Barbarawi said. ‘Every time they buy something they tell us how exactly they’re saving. I mean, they tell us, ‘here we saved $160 bucks.’ But the surge in cigarette sales that is keeping him busy will likely soon end. Like other business owners who rely heavily on tobacco sales, Barbarawi fears hard times lie ahead when smokers will have to pay a tax of $2.83 a pack. Some also predict the tax hike might backfire, making cigarettes so expensive that Minnesotans will head to neighboring states for cheaper cigarettes.” But will they stay for medical treatment?

Well, there’s nothing very express-like about Fifth Street as it is. Tim Harlow of the Strib reports: “Imagine being able to get off westbound Interstate 94 in downtown Minneapolis and not have to navigate around the Metrodome and the Government Center light-rail stop on 5th Street to reach destinations such as Target Center, Target Field and popular nightclubs in the Warehouse District. Folks in the Minneapolis Public Works department sure can. Their desire to replace the current 5th Street ramp with one at 7th Street and give motorists a straight shot through downtown hinges on whether the Minnesota Department of Transportation thinks the idea has merit.”

Anthrax?  Mark Steil of MPR reports: “A cow in northwest Minnesota has died from anthrax, the first case in Minnesota in five years. Anthrax spores occur naturally in the ground, said state animal health board veterinarian Linda Glaser. ‘Anthrax is a bacteria that can normally be found in certain types of soil,’ Glaser said. ‘The bacteria can be in a very hardy form that can survive in the soil as a spore. And animals that would take in those spores, while they’re grazing on land, taking in some of the dirt that may contain spores, can then become infected.’ Recent heavy rains in northwest Minnesota may have brought the anthrax to the surface where the cow ingested it, she said.” Can they pin this on Bruce Ivins, too?

You mean neighbors aren’t thrilled by the sound of 16 passing beer guzzlers in an open bar blasting out party tunes? Liz Collin of WCCO-TV writes: “[Northeast Minneapolis resident Chris] Cowles is one of a growing number of neighbors who aren’t having quite as much fun as the 16 people riding the rolling bars. For months, a Facebook page has been taking complaints. On the page, there’s a picture from a bike that wasn’t able to get out of the way of an ambulance and home video of just how noisy they can be. … The pilots, as they’re called, are taught to keep the music and the yelling down around residential streets.”

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There’s been some research on the economic impact of various MnSCU colleges. Aaron Hagen of the Forum papers says: “Wilder Research, based in St. Paul, conducted the study, which was part of a larger one for the entire Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.  … Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, a four-year college, has an economic impact of $141 million. … Rochester Community and Technical College, one of the larger two-year schools, had an impact of $165 million.According to the study, the entire MnSCU system has 24 two-year colleges and seven state universities. For the entire 31 institutions, the economic impact was $8.3 billion, which is 2.8 percent of Minnesota’s gross regional product. The direct impact was $5 billion, while indirect impact was $3.3 billion. In total, the MnSCU system generated an estimated 80,856 jobs in the state in 2001.”

The GleanI suppose I should have waited to confirm my numbers before buying that Porsche … Brandon Stahl and Glenn Howatt of the Strib write: “A Star Tribune analysis of 10 years of lottery sales and income shows that scratch games are now driving the lottery’s growth, not lotto games and their much-hyped, huge Powerball jackpots. The state lottery is expecting a record $358 million in scratch sales in fiscal year 2013 — about $150 million more the other lottery’s products combined. … Nearly every study on state lotteries in the past 20 years has concluded that it’s played most frequently by lower-income populations, said Earl Grinols, a Baylor University economics professor who has studied gambling and lotteries.”

Dan Browning of the Strib has a story on Mayo’s work using stem cells to aid babies with malformed hearts: “If it works, the new technique could buy these children time as scientists scramble for a cure for the congenital defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). The Mayo study, which will begin as soon as 10 eligible candidates can be enrolled, could also pave the way for additional breakthroughs in stem cell treatments that would help the 19,000 children born each year with other heart defects. But for the time being, the doctors at Mayo are keeping their focus on those babies who need the most help now.”

Two meetings this week on the Southwest Corridor LRT. Says Rupa Shenoy at MPR: “The future routes of freight rail and light rail in the southwest metro area will be the topic at two open houses this week held by the Metropolitan Council. … Engineers will speak with people one on one to explain the options for rerouting freight to accommodate the planned southwest light rail line or running the two tracks alongside each other, said Metropolitan Council spokeswoman Laura Baenen.”

Did you catch the story about finding one of the most-searched-for shipwrecks in Lake Superior? Andrew Krueger of the Duluth News Tribune says: “Just a few months shy of 100 years after it sank with all hands in a monstrous November storm, it appears that the freighter Henry B. Smith — one of the most sought-after lost wrecks of Lake Superior — has been found. A group of shipwreck hunters with Northland ties has found a previously undiscovered wreck sitting largely intact amid a spilled load of iron ore in about 535 feet of water offshore from Marquette, Mich., and all evidence points to it being the Smith. Until last month, the 525-foot vessel had not been seen since it and its crew of 25 inadvertently sailed into the brunt of the Great Lakes Storm of 1913.” Maybe Trampled by Turtles can come up with a song for the occasion?

Well, construction is not their problem … The AP tells us: “Groundbreaking is set June 19 for a new Concert Hall at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul.The Concert Hall will replace the existing 306-seat McKnight Theatre. Preparations for construction of the new 1,100-seat Concert Hall began in March. Construction began on a three-story production wing to provide dressing rooms, workrooms and offices to support both the Ordway’s Music Theater and the new Concert Hall.”