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No big surprises expected in state revenue forecast

Plus: understanding the state’s Internet gap; how federal air pollution rules will affect Minnesota; even squirrels won’t eat grape salad; and more.

Place your bets. Bill Salisbury of the PiPress says, “Dayton and state lawmakers will receive a revenue forecast Dec. 4 that will tell them whether they have a projected surplus or deficit awaiting them when the 2015 legislative session convenes in January. Dayton, his staff, state finance officials and agency numbers crunchers will make thousands of spending decisions before the governor proposes a budget to the Legislature by Jan. 27, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said in an interview this week. Schowalter isn’t tipping his hand on what he thinks the forecast will say. … But early indications suggest no radical ups or downs in the state’s tax collections or spending.”

Things we already know. Says Don Davis for the Forum News Service, “Minnesotans only need to look at the first two counties on an alphabetical list to understand the Internet disparity between rural areas and those in big cities. Recently released figures show that just 0.06 percent of rural northern Minnesota Aitkin County households are served by high-speed Internet service, also known as broadband, that meets the state speed goal. Not too far away to the south, 97 percent of northern Twin Cities suburban Anoka County homes are served by fast Internet. The report by Connect Minnesota shows greater Minnesota-large city disparities as well as differences among the state’s mostly rural counties.”

Directly related: Jenna Ross at the Strib writes, “To help build speedy Internet service, the state created a new, $20 million grant fund. This fall, dozens of counties, companies and cooperatives applied — seeking $44.2 million. ‘As we suspected, the demand is great,’ said Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, or DEED. … Next, the state must make it easier to apply by grappling with a telecom law that has lagged behind technological advances, said [DFL Sen. Matt] Schmit, who led the push to create the matching grant fund. Schmit had initially proposed a $100 million fund. This fall, Gov. Mark Dayton’s task force on broadband recommended that the state spend $200 million over the next two years on the grants.”

Savers has lost a partner. Bob Shaw in the PiPress reports, “A local charity has cut financial ties with the thrift-shop chain Savers, after charges were made against Savers by the Minnesota Attorney General’s office. True Friends, which operates Minnesota camps for people with disabilities, announced Wednesday that it will no longer accept money from Savers. A news release said that the charity’s board of directors made the decision after the Attorney General ‘revealed practices that are not aligned with our values.’”

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This is the point, of course. Elizabeth Dunbar at MPR says, “Tighter air pollution rules proposed Wednesday by the federal Environment Protection Agency could affect Minnesota. … ‘Minnesota has been right on the edge of compliance and non-compliance for a decade and a half, so under any circumstances Minnesota is going to have to do things to keep our air clean and reduce pollution,’ said Mike Harley director of Environmental Initiative, a group promoting voluntarily efforts to reduce the state’s ozone-causing pollutants.”

One of the so-called ISIL recruits … has been released to his parents custody. Amy Forliti of the AP says, “An 18-year-old Twin Cities man accused of trying to travel to Syria to join fighters with the Islamic State group left a few inadvertent clues on Facebook, but was able to hide weeks of planning from his parents, according to recently unsealed court documents. Abdullahi Yusuf was released from jail Wednesday after his attorney noted he’d known for months he was being investigated but never fled. Yusuf was stopped by FBI agents at the Twin Cities airport in May while trying to leave the U.S., but he wasn’t arrested until Tuesday. A judge agreed to release him into the custody of his parents, though prosecutors appealed.”

Like when that Leno kid filled in for Johnny Carson? At MPR. Matt Sepic tells us, “Garrison Keillor said Wednesday that one of his longtime musical guests will fill in as host of A Prairie Home Companion on two shows in February. In the show’s 40 years on the air, Keillor has rarely been away from the microphone. The last time was in 2011, when singer-songwriter Sara Watkins filled in, while Keillor appeared in skits and gave the news from Lake Wobegon. Now Keillor says 33-year-old Chris Thile — a mandolinist who plays alongside Watkins in the bluegrass band Nickel Creek — will host the show February 7 and 14 at the Fitzgerald Theater.” That’s Nickel Creek, not Nickelback.

On the foodie site Umami, Mark Hinds tries to serve his pals … grape salad. “As soon as I started mixing the sour cream in with the grapes it just felt wrong, normally when I start making a recipe I understand what the ingredients are doing in a dish.  There’s just nothing about getting sour cream, grapes, brown sugar, and a broiler together that works. … My friend Jeff kept referring to the dish as Barney’s Blue Balls Brulee, which would probably be tastier.  We even put some leftovers outside overnight to see if any of the local wild life would take a bite.  No dice, even the squirrels know grapes and sour cream don’t go together.” And that folks, is the final nail.

But while we’re at it, and while you’re looking for something to slather on leftovers, this sounds good. James Norton at The Heavy Table writes, “When condiment shopping, serious food lovers like flavors that are clear, clean, and strong — when your condiment knows its own identity, it’s that much easier for it to play nicely with other ingredients. A new Minneapolis-made spread called Grlk (pronounced “garlic”) has a perspective that’s clear as day: eat it on a cracker and you’ll be struck be a Olympian lightning bolt of rich, pungent garlic flavor. It’s made with garlic, non-GMO canola oil, organic lemon juice, organic sea salt, and purified water and goes for $8 a jar via the Grlk website. Jars stay good for 6-8 weeks in the fridge, and each contains 6-7 cloves of garlic.” An added benefit is that if you have to go through Wisconsin, it wards off vampires.