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DFL transportation plan would raise $800 million to $1.1 billion per year

Plus: Retail health clinics’ popularity growing; Lonnie Dupre reaches Mount McKinley summit; lost gift finds Minnetonka boy, thanks to Utah trooper; and more.


The AP story on the DFL’s transportation funding plan says, “A new fuel surcharge and higher vehicle registration fees are key components of a transportation plan that Senate Democrats say will produce $800 million more per year for construction. The proposal introduced Monday is more ambitious than what Gov. Mark Dayton has discussed and worlds apart from an initial House Republican plan reliant on existing tax dollars.”

For the PiPress, David Montgomery writes, “The DFL plan also includes an increase in the vehicle registration tax, which would raise about $125 million per year. A straight sales tax increase for the seven-county metro area would raise more than $250 million per year, mostly for mass transit projects. Combined with several other sources of revenue, the Senate DFL plan would raise about $1.1 billion per year.”

Stribber Patrick Condon says, “The DFL and GOP are also likely to square off over transit funding. The one-cent metro sales tax increase in the Senate plan would raise about $250 million in 2016, or an estimated $1.30 a week for the average metro resident.  A flashpoint could be the ongoing Southwest Light Rail project, which requires $121 million from the state in order to proceed. Dibble said he’d like to see that money come from the metro sales tax, which Dayton has already suggested. But Republicans, including House Speaker Kurt Daudt, have repeatedly emphasized their opposition to spending any state dollars on the project.”

To this, MPR’s Tom Scheck adds, “Daudt’s comments run counter to Rep. Tim Kelly’s stance earlier this month. Kelly, R-Red Wing, chairs the House Transportation Committee. Kelly wouldn’t rule out funding the Southwest, but Daudt is. ‘I am ruling it out,’ Daudt said in an interview. Daudt said the 16-mile light rail line is not a priority for House Republicans.”

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Meanwhile, MPR’s Mark Zdechlik checks out the appeal of MinuteClinics. “While convenience was the impetus for retail clinics, their relatively low cost is fueling their growth. Consumers, even people with health insurance, are paying more out of pocket for care. According to the Commonwealth Fund, a non-partisan health research organization, the average deductible for individual coverage in Minnesota has soared to about $1,400. Retail clinics save people a lot of money, said Tine Hansen-Turton executive director of the Convenient Care Association, an industry trade group. ‘Our average cost is about $75 per encounter, she said. ‘That’s manageable, versus showing up in an emergency room or an urgent care.’ ” Of course there’s always the alternative of avoiding all human contact.

Above and beyond. Lindsey Seavert of KARE-TV has a story of the wayward Christmas present. “What made Stuart Fish’s most-wished-for Christmas gift so special was not the present itself, but the detective work it took for it to reach him, after it was lost on a family vacation more than 1,200 miles away in Utah. A Utah state trooper got the Lego Mindstorms robotic set to the sixth-grader just in time for his 11th birthday. … [Amy] Fish returned back to Minnesota with her family, with plans to buy the Lego set again for Stuart’s birthday on Jan. 10. What they family didn’t know, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper had been trying to track the family down for more than two weeks after he found the gift on the side of the road … .”

With hostilities abated the Minnesota Orchestra will return to Sibelius. Says Graydon Royce for the Strib: “The Minnesota Orchestra will resume recording sessions this spring for its Sibelius Symphonies cycle. The project had been a victim of the 16-month lockout of musicians. Following live performances of Sibelius’s Third, Sixth and Seventh symphonies, the Orchestra will record the works in nine sessions at Orchestra Hall with BIS Records. A release date was not announced.”

He (finally) did it. Says Sam Cook for the Forum News Service, “Grand Marais adventurer Lonnie Dupre reached the summit of North America’s highest peak, Mount McKinley, shortly after 5 p.m. Central Time on Sunday, according to Stevie Anna Plummer, project coordinator for the climb. The only confirmation is from a SPOT GPS beacon message that Dupre transmitted from the summit, saying, ‘All OK. Doing well,’ according to Plummer. If confirmed, that would make Dupre, 53, the first person to have reached the summit solo in January. Mount McKinley is 20,237 feet high.” Those are very short days this time of year.

Some more background and color on the guy — now sentenced — who fleeced dozens with his Civics Reborn car business. City Pages’ Ben Johnson writes, “When he was only 18 years old Moore started a business called Civics Reborn, where he stripped, refurbished and sold Honda Civics made between 1992 and 1995. It was a great idea: he bought the Civic’s ubiquitous parts in bulk for cheap and swapped everything in need of repair out quickly to give a penny-pinching customer a reliable, fuel-efficient Civic that was almost like new. … in September 2013 he was charged with felony aggravated theft by swindle for stealing $127,839 from 33 people. Later that ballooned to $250,000 worth of restitution due to 36 victims.”