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Minnesota stops accepting returns filed through TurboTax

Plus: BNSF to spend $326 million on rail upgrades in Minnesota; WI Gov. Walker faces blowback over ‘Wisconsin Idea’; Franken calls out lazy senators; and more.

Well, I’ve got at least two and half months before I have to think about filing ours. Says Ricardo Lopez of the Strib, “Minnesota officials said late Thursday it would immediately stop accepting tax returns filed through TurboTax, a popular tax preparation software, due to possible fraudulent activity. Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly said the state would continue accepting tax returns from other software brands and through traditional filing methods. Nonetheless, the sudden halt to TurboTax-filed returns is expected to cause many to change how they file 2014 income tax returns. With nearly 30 million customers nationwide, TurboTax accounts for between 60 to 65 percent of the market. Bauerly said TurboTax accounts for a large number of returns filed in Minnesota, which has about 2.7 million filers annually.”

Speaking of taxes. Dave Chanen of the Strib reports, “Rona Griffin’s tax preparation business consistently laid a golden egg for hundreds of clients who trusted her refund-guaranteed income tax filings each year. Working out of a tidy north Minneapolis house, Griffin usually charged only a few hundred dollars per client. Her apparent expertise proved highly profitable, earning her nearly $200,000 a year. But Griffin’s special bookkeeping techniques weren’t learned in college. She consistently lied about her clients’ charitable contributions and business expenses, authorities said Thursday in announcing 53 felony counts against her. While meticulously filing false tax returns for years, she managed to forget to submit any returns for herself.”

Oh, good god: For MPR Madeleine Baran tells us, “The head of Shattuck-St. Mary’s School agreed to pay a teacher who had child pornography on his work computer $12,500 as part of a confidential separation agreement in 2003, according to recently released police reports and court documents. The agreement came two years after an internal investigation was unable to substantiate claims that the teacher had sexually abused students. The school official, who didn’t report the illegal images to police, also agreed to pay for temporary health insurance for the teacher, provide free tuition for his son and keep the reason for the resignation secret. Nine years later, the teacher, Lynn Seibel, was criminally charged for possessing child pornography and sexually abusing six students at the Faribault boarding school from 1999 to 2003.” 

But no bullet train to Chicago, right? Dee DePass of the Strib reports, “BNSF Railway Co. will spend $326 million on Minnesota railroad improvements in 2015, nearly triple the amount spent last year as the company addresses historic increases in freight and tries to speed up service that was crippled last year, officials announced Thursday. The Texas-based railroad said it will spend the money on Minnesota rail maintenance and five new capacity expansions that should ultimately speed up trains and make the system flow better statewide.”

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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board, which has endorsed Scott Walker twice for Governor, dared to discomfit him in a piece picked up by the Strib. “A governor who may soon run for president on the Republican ticket can’t allow himself to get anywhere near a tax increase — even for road projects — so Scott Walker wants to put Wisconsin’s transportation budget on the credit card. … There are other alternatives that make more sense, including a system that would assess fees based on miles driven, tolling or, yes, even a hike in the gas tax. Instead, Walker wants to use $1.3 billion in borrowing to pay for transportation projects over the next two years. In total, state borrowing would fall because the governor also is recommending delaying construction of new buildings that have already gotten the initial OK. Some of those are for the University of Wisconsin System.” Hey, it “worked” for Tim Pawlenty, until it didn’t.

And also this on our neighbor. The story is a little hard to follow, but as Jason Stein, Patrick Marley and Karen Herzog of the Journal-Sentinel report on the latest twist, “Gov. Scott Walker and aides scrambled Thursday to respond to revelations that his administration had insisted to University of Wisconsin officials on scrapping the Wisconsin Idea, the guiding principle for the state’s universities for more than a century. In a rapid revision to his own comments on Wednesday, the Republican governor acknowledged that UW System officials had raised objections about the proposal. They had been told the changes were not open to debate. While backtracking on earlier comments to reporters, Walker continued to insist in a statement that he hadn’t known what his own administration was doing until after the proposal became public and caused a firestorm of criticism. He said no one would be disciplined.” No reason for accountability, folks. Keep moving.

The Glean

If GOP Rep. Glen Gruenhagen from Glencoe opens his mouth, Sally Jo Sorenson of Bluestem Prairie is there to transcribe it. The latest is his idea for education spending. Sally Jo via Ben Johnson of City Pages spotted it, the latter writing: “Gruenhagen was one of the Republicans in a two-hour hearing yesterday who began picking at the governor’s plan to use more than $400 million of the state’s surplus on various education initiatives. He had some interesting ideas on how to redirect some of those funds. ‘I see much of the money that has been misdirected…That money should be redirected toward support of the traditional family and emphasizing reading curriculums that actually have empirical evidence that work,’ he said. He went on to rail against non-traditional learning methods like inventive spelling, whole language and creative writing(?) as the cause of childhood reading problems.”

I think we can blame Al Gore for this, too. Somehow. At MPR, Elizabeth Dunbar, in her series on climate change writes, “It could be that allergy sufferers are getting a double whammy from the mechanism causing climate change. Not only are increased carbon emissions leading to higher temperatures and an extended growing season for ragweed and other pollen-bearing plants, the carbon itself is letting some plants make more pollen.” “Fox & Friends” will interview a cabby who’ll refute this.

Not quite SNL, but Al Franken flashed a bit of the old razor yesterday. In Roll Call, Joanna Anderson writes, “The ‘Saturday Night Live’ alum, who joined the Senate in 2009, called Republicans chronically lazy for skipping the panel’s routine markup sessions, now and in the last Congress. Roughly 25 minutes into Thursday’s meeting, senators had finished debate but were still lacking the attendance level needed to officially advance legislation on child pornography victims and public access to government information. Then, Franken arrived to push attendance over the tipping point. … With a reporting quorum secured, Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, sought to quickly move ahead with the committee’s agenda. But Franken pressed his point, telling Grassley, ‘No, I want to say something about this.’ ‘You know when we were in the majority … we had the responsibility to provide a quorum,’ Franken said. ‘And I thought that you guys, your side, didn’t show up because you just resented being in the minority. But now I know … it’s just sheer laziness.’” He must be feeling his second term oats.