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North Dakota’s budget craters under falling oil prices

Plus: Lawmakers push to stop lottery games’ expansion; RyKrisp to shut down; scientists and public are light-years apart on science issues; and more.

REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Someone didn’t plan for every contingency. Jennifer Brooks of the Strib says, “Oil prices have been cut in half, and so has North Dakota’s budget. A drastic drop in the oil market has carved a $4 billion crater in the state’s budget plans, according to the revised revenue forecast the state issued Thursday. Instead of $8.3 billion in revenue oil and tax revenue the state had expected to collect in the 2015-2017 budget cycle, the revised projection — reflecting much lower oil prices and an increasing number of oil rigs suspending their operations — is $4.2 billion. … The budget Gov. Jack Dalrymple unveiled in December hinged on oil selling for between $72 and $82 a barrel through 2015-2017 budget cycle. But as oil prices plummeted, so did the state’s expectations.”

In the PiPress, Doug Belden writes, “The Minnesota Lottery narrowly escaped being reined in last session, and lawmakers are pushing again this year to stop the games’ expansion into online and other venues. Legislation passed the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform committee Wednesday that would require the Lottery to end online scratch-off games as well as ticket sales at gas pumps and ATM machines.” Dang! What’s a fella to do for four whole minutes while gasin’ up his rig? Contemplate the birdies?

I didn’t believe it when someone first told me about this. The West Central Tribune has a story by Tom Cherveny about the most unlikely of immigrants. “Thanks to Pacific Ocean breezes, temperatures on the islands of Micronesia do not fall below 70 degrees or rise above 90 degrees. ‘What would bring people in a place like that to a place like Minnesota, where I understand the temperature does get lower than 70 degrees?’ asked the Rev. Fran Hezel, a Jesuit priest. … Father Hezel spoke Jan. 19 to teachers from the region participating in a professional development day at the Lac qui Parle Valley Schools. The district currently serves more than 40 students from Micronesia in pre-K to high school classes, according to Lac qui Parle Valley Superintendent Renae Tostenson. There are nearly 200 Micronesians in Milan today.” Do we have an exchange program?

It was during the Kennedy administration the last time I had one of these. The PiPress story says, “The end is near for RyKrisp, the made-in-Minnesota rye cracker that once was a mainstay of dieters and Scandinavians. RyKrisp’s owner, ConAgra Foods, has notified employees that in March it will stop producing the hard cracker at the one and only production plant, which is in southeast Minneapolis. And then, after more than a century, RyKrisp will fade into history, a once-popular product that couldn’t survive changing consumer tastes.” Maybe if they slathered them in sea salt caramel chocolate?

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Will Steger’s in the Duluth News Tribune today with a commentary on climate change. “In an unprecedented joint announcement, NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) announced that 2014 was the warmest year on record since recordkeeping began in 1880. This was a massive statement, one that has not been established lightly. Even accounting for chaotic weather patterns, volcanic eruptions, and solar heating, the NASA/NOAA report showed the Earth five times warmer now than it would be without greenhouse gases, which are caused by the burning of fossil fuels. … Let Gov. Mark Dayton and your state legislators know you support a clean-power plan for Minnesota. We have proven that strong public policy for renewable-energy standards works. Now we must continue our leadership position by seeking a higher renewable-energy goal so we can maintain a sustainable energy future for our state.”

Who’ll be the first to howl, “Nanny state!”? In the PiPress, David Montgomery says, “A Minnesota lawmaker wants to make it harder for parents to leave their children unvaccinated. Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, will introduce a bill today requiring parents to talk with a doctor about vaccines ‘and the diseases they prevent’ before they can opt out of immunizing their children.”

Directly related. Seth Borenstein of the AP reports, “The American public and U.S. scientists are light-years apart on science issues. And 98 percent of surveyed scientists say it’s a problem that we don’t know what they’re talking about. Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use, and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country’s largest general science organization. Scientists were more certain that global warming is caused by man, evolution is real, overpopulation is a danger and mandatory vaccination against childhood diseases is needed.” Scientists? Are they on “American Idol” or “FoxNews”?

And then, after setting her cat on fire … . KARE-TV reports, “A Chaska man is charged with assault, terroristic threats and animal cruelty after police say he bit off a portion of his girlfriend’s ear, threatened to kill her and previously strangled and dismembered her cat. … The charges state three week prior to this incident, [Michael Anthony] Trudeau allegedly lit the woman’s cat on fire in the middle of her living room. When the cat was extinguished, Trudeau allegedly choked the animal with his hands until it died.” Somebody is way beyond anger management therapy.

City Pages’ Cory Zurowski v. Rep. John Kline: “Only months into his seventh term in Congress, Republican Rep. John Kline has already said he has every intention to seek reelection in 2016. It’s the kind of forward thinking hubris afforded an incumbent who’s greased the wheels of his political career on Capitol Hill to the tune of $15 million in special interest money. But Kline’s deep political pockets, courtesy of corporate players like the University of Phoenix’s Apollo Education Group, isn’t intimidating enough to stop challengers from already lining up. … Earlier this week, Angie Craig, a 42-year-old medical device company executive and political candidate greenhorn, said she plans to mount a DFL challenge to the GOP incumbent in next year’s Second Congressional District election. Craig, an Eagan resident, who’s lived in Minnesota for a decade, joins Republican David Gerson, a two-time loser to Kline in the primaries, as heavy underdogs against an opponent, who’s become the well-established and copiously financed lackey for the for-profit higher education industry … .”


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