The broadband battle has been joined. Says Brian Bakst for MPR, “Sharp differences are emerging over how Minnesota leaders will spread high-speed Internet to more households and businesses around the state. The key question: How much of the budget surplus will they spend? A Republican-led House committee made its opening bid on Thursday with a bill that would devote $35 million to a broadband expansion fund and put the emphasis on communities that are unserved with high-speed access but also pay some attention to those that are considered underserved. … There are estimates that 244,000 people lack speedy Internet and it would take $3 billion to reach the goal. Advocates for rural cities and small towns say the available dollars have barely scratched the surface.”
Al sees a ripe target. For The Huffington Post Jennifer Bendery says, “Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) tore into Republicans on Thursday for their contradictory positions on blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, saying their arguments reminded him of his past life as a comedian on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ ‘I used to make a living identifying absurdity,’ Franken said at the start of a fiery speech in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. ‘I’m hearing a lot of it today.’ … He got into a back-and-forth with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) about Republicans setting a precedent by denying even a hearing to a Supreme Court nominee, never mind a vote. Hatch said Democrats did the same thing to failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in the 1980s, which Franken corrected him on. Bork ultimately failed to get confirmed, but he did at least get hearings.”
The Center for the American Experiment’s Peter Nelson has a Strib commentary on the state budget. “The current budget surplus is no doubt largely driven by the massive 2013 tax increase that Gov. Mark Dayton and the then-DFL-controlled Legislature imposed on Minnesota. … With only a few exceptions, Minnesota is losing income to lower-tax states to the West and the South, such as Arizona, Colorado, Florida, South Dakota, Texas and Washington. … .” Dang, but I love a good “our millionaires are fleeing to South Dakota” screed.
Woo hoo! Solvency! Says Maya Rao in the Strib, “The political battle over whether to refund millions in unemployment taxes to Minnesota businesses has obscured the fact that the fund has just hit federally recommended levels for the first time ever. That sobering revelation comes as the Minnesota House passed a measure Thursday to extend benefits for laid-off steel workers on the Iron Range but also return millions of dollars in unemployment insurance to employers.”
Think of it as a lot of small stadiums. For the Strib, Shannon Prather writes, “The state-owned National Sports Center and the city of Blaine are seeking a total of $8.7 million in state funding … . They’re each independently asking for state bonding this legislative session. The National Sports Center draws 4 million visitors a year — more than Target Field — and lays claim to the title of world’s largest amateur sports and meeting facility.” No personal seat licenses as far as I can tell.
But J. Patrick Coolican at the Strib alerts us to this: “St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and the Minnesota United soccer club began their push Thursday for a legislative package to help the team and its private investors build a $150 million stadium in the Midway neighborhood. … despite broad bipartisan support and the backing of Gov. Mark Dayton, the soccer package could be victim of a contentious legislative year in which the two sides are already deadlocked over taxes and transportation and must contend with election year politics..”
Speaking of booze and tax breaks, the Forum News Service says, “Owners of wineries on Minnesota farms are asking lawmakers give them a tax break like other alcohol makers receive. Legislation by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, would provide excise tax credits for wine and cider makers that produce up to 75,000 gallons a year. No farm winery reaches that level. Wine makers told a Senate committee Thursday that the state requires them to use at least half Minnesota-grown produce, such as grapes or apples. No other alcohol maker is forced to rely on Minnesota produce.”
Talk about a loving daughter. Says Karen Zamora in the Strib, “A Meeker County grill and pub owner has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $219,000 from her vulnerable widowed mother in a long string of thefts that forced the elderly woman’s eviction from an adult care facility for failure to pay rent. … Two months after being evicted, [Erma] Marking died at age 91 in a dementia care residence in Dassel.”
And then there’s this guy. Says Tom Lyden for KMSP-TV, “A Plymouth, Minnesota man is charged with stealing all of his 90-year old mother’s money and neglecting her up until her death. Thursday afternoon, David Vanzo was arrested in Pomona, California, where he was still living off his mother’s money. In fact, according to police and prosecutors, that’s the only thing he’s done for years: neglect his mother, and siphon her money, gambling it away or spending it on sex and porn.” I know a gal he deserves to meet.
There is work. Says Martin Moylan for MPR, “State employers reported they had more than 96,000 positions to fill in the final quarter of last year — the most fourth quarter openings since the state began tracking in 2001. Vacancies in the last three months of 2015 were up 8 percent from the same period a year earlier, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said Thursday.” The vacancies must be from everyone who fled to South Dakota.