Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's budget deficit announcement Wednesday resulted in lots of finger-pointing, most notably from Democrats blaming Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty for what could be a nearly $7 billion shortfall over the next three and a half years. But Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, pointed his fingers in every direction, including back at himself. "At this point, we are not seeing the leadership that we need, from anyone," Juhnke said during a House Ways and Means Committee meeting, talking about his own Democratic-Farmer-Laborite leaders as much as anyone.
ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty may target local governments as he looks for ways to plug continued budget deficits. Shortly after his aides announced that the current budget contains a $1.2 billion hole and the next two-year budget is $5.4 billion short, Pawlenty on Wednesday said his first action could be chopping a state payment due to local governments later this month. Then he complained that school districts appear to be giving raises to employees after he asked them to freeze wages.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota's state budget will be $1.2 billion in deficit if lawmakers and Gov.
ST. PAUL -- A key legislator wants to crack down on Minnesota charter school-related organizations that build schools with public money but without public oversight. Sen. Kathy Saltzman, DFL-Woodbury, plans a Monday subcommittee hearing on the topic that she calls "troubling transactions." Saying that charter schools are valuable, Saltzman said the controversy is about whether school-related organizations should be allowed to use a legal loophole to construct buildings for charter schools.
ST. PAUL -- The problem is to find money to create jobs while the economy remains troubled. The solution remains very much a work in progress two months before Minnesota legislators convene in their 2010 session. A Wednesday finance report is expected to show that finding that money will be even worse than expected as tax revenues continue to stumble. "Our collections throughout the fall dropped considerably," Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson told the House jobs task force Monday.
ST. PAUL -- A perennial Minnesota legislative debate about local government aid is expected in the 2010 session, or maybe earlier. The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is making noise about a big fight, and many city officials are concerned that they cannot wait until lawmakers return to the Capitol on Feb. 4. A Wednesday budget forecast, which could show a new deficit of $1 billion, may lead to cuts in local governments' December state paychecks.
ST. PAUL -- Talks to buy land for a Lake Vermilion state park are on hold, the state natural resources commissioner told a legislative committee, but hope remains that a deal could be completed. Commissioner Mark Holsten said he wants $20 million set aside for land purchase to remain available. "We are involved in a very delicate business discussion with U.S. Steel," he said. "The timing has to be right for the two parties to be involved in a business transaction." Gov. Tim Pawlenty made it a priority to establish a Lake Vermilion state park in northeastern Minnesota. U.S.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's H1N1 flu outbreak continues to ease, but state health officials warn that another wave may be on the way. "We may be down in terms of influenza activity," State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said Wednesday. However, she warned, other states also have seen the H1N1 swine flu wane before another wave hits. "We are preparing for a potential third wave that could happen in January or February," Lynfield said. Also, she added, past pandemics have come in waves, so Minnesotans should continue to wash their hands, cover coughs and stay home when sick.
ST. PAUL -- The first of what could be many Minnesota court rulings on Gov. Tim Pawlenty's authority to unilaterally cut the state budget should come within days. A part of a wider dispute, a Ramsey County judge on Monday heard arguments about whether she should temporarily restore $5.3 million to one food program the governor cut as part of his efforts to plug a $2.7 billion budget deficit.