From your heating bill to their pockets: Xcel, Centerpoint post hefty profits

With all us losers there has to have been some big winners … . Dave Shaffer of the Strib reports, “The bitter cold winter helped electric and gas utilities shovel in profits from January through March. Xcel Energy, a natural gas and electricity supplier in Minnesota and other states, reported Thursday that three-month earnings rose 10 percent over the same period a year go, exceeding Wall Street expectations.” Centerpoint’s was up 17 percent. Meanwhile, Al Franken proposes creating a “national propane reserve,” the Strib’s Allison Sherry notes.

As they say in “Fargo” … “jeez.” Pat Pheifer of the Strib reports, “A Waseca teenager who idolized the Columbine High School shooters plotted to murder his parents and sister, then go on a rampage through Waseca’s junior high and high school, setting off pressure cooker bombs, throwing Molotov cocktails and gunning down fleeing students, according to criminal charges filed Thursday. John David LaDue, 17, allegedly detailed his plans in a 180-page notebook, police say. He’d been amassing a stockpile of handguns, automatic weapons and bomb-making equipment in his bedroom and in a storage unit, the charges claim.”

Says Abby Simons in the Strib, “A new law that will streamline the screening process for mentally ill jail inmates could drastically shrink the amount of time they spend in Minnesota jails without treatment. … The new law, which goes into effect Aug. 1, could save time as well as money” by better coordinating necessary hearings. Hennepin Sheriff Rich Stanek estimates 12,000 people booked into his jail annually are mentally ill.

Kline versus the college-athlete unions. At MPR, Brett Neely says, “Can a college quarterback also be a union steward? That’s sure to be a question that will come up at a hearing scheduled for next week by Rep. John Kline, the Minnesota Republican who chairs the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee. … Kline’s committee has been central to a GOP push to pare back what Republicans see as the power of labor unions.”

On the pot (oh, okay, “medicinal marijuana”) compromise, John Croman of KARE-TV says, “Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana in Minnesota are divided over the new scaled-back version of the bill intended to win the backing of Gov. Mark Dayton and statewide law enforcement organizations. … Another facet of the plan aimed at winning over Gov. Dayton and law enforcement groups is that all of the drugs used in the study would be supplied by a single manufacturer, a contractor to be selected by the Minn. Dept. of Health.”

There’s no mandatory retirement in Lake Wobegon. Jeff Baenen of the AP says, “[Garrison] Keillor, who turns 72 in August, hinted a few years ago that he planned to retire in 2013, and the show had its first guest host in 2011. But while he says the show ‘could definitely go on’ without him, Keillor already has planned the next season and has started talks about the season after that.”

The GleanWater levels up … even undergroundCathy Wurzer of MPR spoke with “Jason Moeckel of the Department of Natural Resources Division of Ecological and Water Resources, about how a week of rainy days affects the water level in our underground aquifers. … It’s early enough in the season that plants aren’t absorbing that water, so much of it is recharging aquifers. ‘What we’ve seen this year has been tremendous,’ said Moeckel … .”

The war between governments and “ride-sharing” apps heats up … . Now the state Commerce department has issued a consumer alert about using Lyft and Uber, noting drivers’ insurance may not be up to passenger protection in a crash. The PiPress’s Nick Woltman says there may be “gaps” between drivers’ personal policies and the appsters’ umbrella policies; the businesses deny it. The Strib’s Eric Roper has more.

Related: Minnesota might be out three-quarters of a billion dollars if the federal Highway Trust Fund goes broke in August, the Strib’s Tim Harlow reports. The national gas tax, which funds the fund, was last hiked in 1983; Obama has proposed a fix. Your move, Boehner.

Also related: In a Strib commentary Shoreview psychiatrist Kevin Turnquist offers cures for our freeway traffic problems. “While changing the driving habits of millions of humans may seem impossible, a simple 10-point plan would certainly improve things:  1) New drivers should receive specific training in freeway driving and be required to prove their competence on busy highways before becoming licensed. … 4) Changing lanes in a manner that causes traffic to be stopped will automatically be seen as a traffic violation.” I say we fine everyone who is in my damn way.

It’s not like they could call him any worse names … . Stribber Rachel Stassen-Berger writes, “Minnesota’s Tea Party leaders have called Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden a phony, a fraud, suggested he is frightening and should go away. Now McFadden … ‘is coming to the stage of the North Metro Tea Party. This has been a long time coming but on Thursday, May 8th he has made the commitment to me to be the keynote speaker and (answer) any questions you may have for him,’ North Metro Tea Party leader Jack Rogers posted on Facebook.” Al Franken himself might as well go.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 05/02/2014 - 06:16 am.

    Gas Tax

    The reason the highway trust fund is broke is two fold. One part is that people are buying less gas due to less driving, more efficient gas engines, and hybrids.

    The other is that conservatives consider raising the gas tax to account for inflation to be a “tax increase”, which is absurd, given the cost of concrete and asphalt are not at 1983 prices.

    The answer may be to index the gas taxes, both federal and state, to the average increase in CEO compensation since 1983. After all, I’m told there is nothing wrong with their skyrocketing incomes.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 05/02/2014 - 07:34 am.

      Good point, and to underscore the drop in gasoline volume,…

      …in gallons, see the graph at the following link which shows the decline over the last 40 years, but most especially in the last 10 years !! We are in the midst of a pattern of decline. Has anyone estimated where it will level off ?
      http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=A103600001&f=A

      Naturally, this will have a substantial and ongoing impact on tax revenues, based on a fixed rate.

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