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 lawmakers voted to cut $300 million from college and university spending as they craft a state budget while plugging a $5 billion deficit. Opponents of the Republican-written bill said some campuses are threatened and up to 1,500 higher education workers could lose their jobs if the bill becomes law. Bills passing the House and Senate Tuesday set a $2.5 billion two-year budget for state-run colleges and universities. That is down from $2.8 billion in the current budget. Senators passed their bill 37-27; representatives passed it 69-60.
ST. PAUL -- Democratic lawmakers fear a bill the House passed Monday night is the beginning of the end of state aid sent to local governments. With Republicans providing most of the votes, representatives approved the bill 73-59 lowering state aid and also cutting income taxes. Republicans rejected attempts to restore local government aid payments. "I believe this bill will end Local Government Aid as we know it," said Rep.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota should sell walnut trees to help the state's budget, a state legislator suggests. Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, convinced a committee to amend an outdoors funding bill to include his idea to sell black walnut and other trees in southeast Minnesota's Frontenac and Whitewater state parks. The lawmaker said the walnut tree is the most valuable in the state, but could not estimate how much the state would receive if the action was taken.
ST. PAUL -- The state Emergency Operations Center opened today as flooding begins in southern Minnesota, with problems expected to move north in coming weeks. Up to 150 people from state, federal and private agencies will man the St. Paul center until floodwaters recede. While spring EOC operations have become common as floods now are an annual occurrence, this year is different in magnitude. Forty to 50 counties are expected to be affected by flooding this year, said Deputy Director Wade Setter of Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Legislature is racing toward a self-imposed Friday budget deadline amid protesters fearing Wisconsin-type anti-union laws, Republicans bucking their party chairman by proposing racinos and key lawmakers saying their budget plans will not be finished by Friday. "Welcome to Phase One of a yet-to-be-determined number of phases, I fear," Chairman Jim Abeler of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee said Monday as he introduced his budget plan. The Anoka Republican said that his proposal will change before reaching Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton's desk.
ST. PAUL -- Republican state budget plans will become clear in the coming week, although no one expects the governor to agree. A week ago, the GOP released a budget outline, and legislative committees now are debating details. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said that Republicans who control the Legislature will send their own budget bills to Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota policymakers want to quickly launch a long-discussed war on plants and animals invading the state. Asian carp, including ones that jump out of the water and hit boaters, are the most publicized invasive species. While those carp have not arrived in Minnesota, much smaller zebra mussels, spiny waterfleas and the Eurasian watermilfoil plant already are common in areas. "Once they take over, it is too late," Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday as he joined lawmakers to support a $4 million-a-year plan to fight the invasion.
ST. PAUL -- An 8-year-old effort to keep sex offenders in jail longer began a new trek on Tuesday through the Minnesota Legislature. The House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee unanimously approved a proposal that would force many of the worst offenders to spend 60 years in prison, followed by a decade of supervised release. Those "worst of the worst" sex offenders would serve twice the current sentences under the bill by Rep.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota income taxes would fall $300 million in the next two years under a House Republican plan, while state payments to local governments drop significantly. The proposal, to receive a House Tax Committee vote late this week, eliminates Local Government Aid for Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as Twin Cities suburbs, by 2015.