State board takes 7 minutes to clear Tomassoni in conflict-of-interest inquiry

tomassoni portrait
Sen. David Tomassoni

Uh, that was quick. Says Don Davis for the Forum News Service, “A state board took seven minutes Friday to decide state Sen. David Tomassoni did not violate conflict-of-interest laws when he became executive director of an Iron Range advocacy organization. Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board members had little to say about the Chisholm Democrat becoming executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools. Tomassoni had asked for the opinion when some people raised conflict of interest questions. On a 4-0 vote, the board accepted a previously released draft opinion.”

Raises!? I don’t see “CEO” in front of any of their names! Pat Kessler at WCCO-TV writes, “Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is giving members of his Cabinet a big payday: They’re getting double-digit raises totalling tens of thousands of dollars. … ‘There are many people who would love to have a $35,000 salary increase,’ [freshman Republican State Rep. Roz] Peterson said. ‘But these are people who are public servants, and I think it’s a little inappropriate at this time to do those kinds of jumps.’ Dayton said commissioner salaries have not been raised in ten years because of budget and political difficulties. He says state lawmakers, who haven’t had a raise since 1998, also need a pay hike.”

Speaking of public money. Frederick Melo of the PiPress says, “The city of St. Paul has posted the base salaries of its three highest-paid employees. As of Feb. 1, the chief of police earns $146,629. The deputy mayor earns $145,002. And the general manager of St. Paul Regional Water Services earns $144,884.” And why I ask are they paid more than a WalMart greeter?

A bit more on TurboTax’s Minnesota problem from Mary Lynn Smith and Ricardo Lopez of the Strib. “TurboTax says it has temporarily stopped processing state tax returns due to the  increase in fraudulent fillings. Intuit Inc., the company behind the popular tax preparation software TurboTax, said it is working with security company Palantir to investigate the problem. So far, Intuit says there was no security breach of its systems. Instead, it believes personal information was taken elsewhere and used to file returns on TurboTax. … Utah officials said 18 other states have identified similar problems.”

At Forbes Kelly Phillips Eb writes, “The 2013 problems included errors with property tax refunds, education expenses and political contributions. The Department of Revenue warned at the time that these issues could ‘jeopardize the accuracy of your return or delay your refund’ and advised taxpayers to file using a software product other than those offered by Intuit (TurboTax, Lacerte, Intuit online, ProSeries). In 2015, the problem appears to be limited to certain individual products. The Department of Revenue emphasized on its website that ‘[w]e are still accepting returns filed with Intuit professional preparer products (Lacerte, Intuit Tax Online, and ProSeries)’.”

Phyllis Kahn’s latest move to lower the drinking age gets this coverage from Doug Belden at the PiPress, “Kahn, who has tried for years without success to lower Minnesota’s drinking age, is back with two bills that would allow people younger than 21 to drink in bars and restaurants. ‘It’s a very good way to deal with the serious problem of binge drinking, particularly on college campuses,’ said Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who has the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College in her district. … The idea is to let young people learn to drink socially as they do in Europe, she said, so they’re not scrambling for fake IDs or stocking up on liquor illegally and then binge-drinking in their rooms. Her other bill would allow underage people to drink in bars and restaurants if accompanied by a parent or guardian or spouse who is of legal age.”

Wait a minute. What? Grand Forks is No. 1? Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald says, “Grand Forks is the best place to live in America for hockey fans according to a New York-based survey that was released this week. SmartAsset combined a quality of life score with a fan-intensity score to compile its ratings. Grand Forks, home of UND’s hockey program, finished No. 1. It was followed by Hanover, N.H. (Dartmouth), Lewiston, N.Y. (Niagara), Glens Falls, N.Y. (Adirondack Flames, American Hockey League) and Houghton, Mich., (Michigan Tech). The top NHL town listed is Pittsburgh at No. 8. Duluth came in at No. 10, Bemidji at No. 18 and St. Paul at No. 20.” I suspect voter fraud.

In their latest segment on climate change, MPR’s Elizabeth Dunbar and Dan Kraker remind listeners of the state’s shortcomings in meeting its 2015 goals. “The state’s utilities are ahead of schedule in meeting a mandate to provide 25 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025. The mandate was part of a 2007 energy initiative under former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But the state is falling short of the promise made in a second law the same year, the Next Generation Energy Act, which Pawlenty signed after nearly unanimous legislative approval. It created a goal to reduce Minnesota’s share of the heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that scientists overwhelmingly agree are driving climate change. Although efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are often the focus of international discussions, the state law in 2007 said by 2015 Minnesota should have reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent from 2005. The most recent data, from 2012, indicate the state isn’t even halfway there, and no one expects to hit the target.”

Bemidji State is going all San Francisco. Says Ben Johnson at City Pages, “Bemidji State University is considering outlawing the sale of overpriced, thin plastic bottles of water found in most vending machines and convenience stores. Instead, its Student Senate is pushing for an expanded network of free water bottle filling stations. Free metal water bottles are already given out to new students, and a proposed policy the Student Senate unanimously passed earlier this week would force students and faculty to use them instead of relying on wasteful impulse purchases to stay hydrated.”

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 02/06/2015 - 04:33 pm.

    Pay Raise

    Silly. Even the new salaries are far below what private industry would pay for similar responsibility, experience, and expertise.

    • Submitted by Richard Callahan on 02/06/2015 - 04:57 pm.

      But the private sector jobs would have no job security with the threat of being walked out the door without notice, nor would they have extremely generous inflation adjusted pensions. Health care costs would be substantially higher as well.

      I would prefer that public employee salaries be on par with private jobs, but that the benefits be brought in line as well.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/06/2015 - 05:21 pm.

        “Golden Parachute”

        Have you ever heard that term in relation to private industry execs? Lavish pension benefits, life time medical coverage, and that’s just the one’s that get shown the door.

        Not only that, but there is no relationship between CEO pay and how their corporations perform. None at all.

        • Submitted by Richard Callahan on 02/07/2015 - 11:15 pm.

          You are right that there is a class of corporate execs who have these kinds of benefits along with multimillion dollar salaries and one could go on and on about how they exploit shareholders, etc., but they have nothing to do with the class of state workers we are talking about here.

          By and large, private sector corporate workers have lost their pensions and tens of thousands have been walked out the door in Minnesota alone. Those that managed to find jobs are making a fraction of what they did. Being immune to this kind of career tragedy is a very valuable benefit that should be factored into public employee compensation.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/08/2015 - 12:41 pm.

        Job Security

        These are cabinet-level appointees, who can be dismissed by the Governor whenever he feels like it.

      • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 02/09/2015 - 08:47 am.

        Richard, that’s the problem

        So we see the private sector gutting the middle class with it’s wage and benefit policies and the response is, the public sector should do it too? I’d rather try to reverse a horrible policy than exascerbate it.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 02/06/2015 - 05:25 pm.

    I Can’t Help but Wonder How Much MORE Heads of State Departments

    would be making if our Republican friends had been successful in their push to privatize MOST of the state government (a few years back).

    Somehow, even if the CEOs of those privatized companies carrying out the functions of former state agencies were making double the salaries of the heads of the former state agencies,…

    it wouldn’t bother those Republicans in the least,…

    even though it would have to be paid for out of state tax receipts.

    Is it because the people heading up those “private” companies would be friends and cronies of those same Republicans?

    Either that, or some of our Republican friends have a dysfunctional aversion (bordering on a phobia) regarding any taxpayer funds being spent on government and any and all things that could be described as “the public good.”

    It must be very difficult for them to stomach accepting the “public” funds that go into their OWN back accounts when the legislature is in session.

  3. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 02/06/2015 - 06:14 pm.

    Tomassoni takes less time to refuse new job

    Good for him! And despite calls for raising the salaries of our Representatives and Senators, most seem to keep their elected positions rather than step down to take the other jobs, as in this case.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 02/07/2015 - 06:54 am.

    State boards

    I think there may be some issues with out state board. For one thing, they seem to be unable to identify the most obvious conflicts of interest possible.

  5. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 02/07/2015 - 02:37 pm.

    Pay Raise

    “…it’s a little inappropriate at this time…”

    If not now, then when? It appears to me that Mr. Dayton wants to retain his staff, intact, for the remaining years of his office as governor. And why not?

  6. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 02/07/2015 - 02:41 pm.

    Turbo tax

    “Utah officials said 18 other states have identified similar problems.”

    So, they(Turbo Tax) were hacked, right?

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