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State parks face funding squeeze under legislative budget proposal

Plus: dispute over road project priorities in Legislature; Hennepin County opioid deaths jump 60 percent; St. Paul’s municipal trash collection; and more.


Maybe they could sell naming rights. The Star Tribune’s Josephine Marcotty reports: “For Minnesotans who will make millions of visits to their beloved state parks this year, budget proposals moving through the Republican-controlled Legislature could produce some sad surprises. … Bathrooms may be locked. The nature talk on Minnesota mushrooms could be canceled. Or there might not be any camping after Labor Day — at all or some parks. … By 2019, state officials say, the parks’ operating budget would be underfunded by up to $5.8 million under the Senate budget proposal and $1.5 million under the House plan. Either one, or a combination of the two, would continue what park officials say is a decadelong dilemma: Operating funds for the state’s 75 parks have declined, after accounting for inflation, while the number of Minnesotans who use them continues to increase every year.”

As long as we’re building more of ’em, who cares? The Pioneer Press’ David Montgomery reports: “As Minnesota leaders debate how much new money to put toward the state’s roads, they’re also fighting about a related issue: who should choose which roads get attention? … Ordinarily, the Legislature appropriates money for roads and bridges, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation decides how to spend the money. But bills in the Legislature this year take a different path: they order the MnDOT to do specific road projects. It’s a process called ‘earmarking,’ and it could spark a showdown over road funding between the Republican-controlled Legislature and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.”

60 percent! MPR’s Tim Nelson reports: “Hennepin County saw a nearly 60 percent jump in opioid-related deaths from 2015 to 2016, with the dead ranging from stillborn to age 66. … The data, released Monday, offered the latest grim evidence of the depth of the region’s opioid addiction crisis. … Equally worrisome: the presence of the high-powered drug fentanyl in many of the deaths. Thirty-nine of the opiate-related deaths in Hennepin County in 2016 involved fentanyl, compared with nine in 2015, according to the report by well-known Twin Cities addiction researcher Carol Falkowski.”

St. Paul’s journey toward municipal trash collection isn’t going smoothly. The Pioneer Press’ Frederick Melo writes: “When Bobby Stewart, a third-generation trash hauler, saw the list of items the city of St. Paul expects collected alongside residential garbage, his eyes almost crossed. … If the city gets its way, Christmas trees would be picked up from residential homes every January. A barrel full of lawn waste and up to eight additional bags of leaves and grass clippings would be carted off throughout the year for an extra fee. And collection of three big and bulky items annually, such as sofas, refrigerators and tires, would become standard. … Meanwhile, a contract for residential citywide trash collection would also include a labor peace agreement, allowing employees of the trash haulers to unionize.”

In other news…

Minnesotans on the move: “Trump to nominate U economist Parente for key HHS job” [Star Tribune]

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There you go: “Prince contained multitudes, new book confirms” [MPR]

God Bless the USA: “Why Delta Air Lines Paid Me $11,000 Not To Fly To Florida This Weekend” [Forbes]

All right East Chain! “Graduates save their school by buying it” [KARE]

Congratulations: “Minnesota Book Award winners include Kao Kalia Yang, Sun Yung Shin, Peter Geye, Shawn Otto” [Star Tribune]

Take what you can get: “Timberwolves miss playoffs again, but at least there’s a new logo” [MPR]