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 -- The revelation of an $876 million Minnesota budget surplus includes a dark side. Gov. Mark Dayton showed the two sides by calling Thursday's announcement "terrific news," moments later adding that it is "no time to celebrate." "We're not out of the fiscal woods by any means," he said. The takeaway for an average Minnesotan is that no one should expect a return to the old days of higher state spending. For the time being, the projected surplus will stay in the bank, where the state economist said it should remain.
ST. PAUL -- A new method of funding Minnesota outdoors and arts programs needs better oversight, the Minnesota legislative auditor warns. "Things generally are OK," Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles said in an interview. "But given the amount of money involved and the expectations, we can never be satisfied." Nobles' staff Wednesday issued two audits that showed concerns about oversight of how up to $300 million a year is spent from so-called legacy funds, money raised by a three-eighths of a percent sales tax increase voters approved in 2008.
ST. PAUL -- Questions abound two weeks before some Minnesota in-home day-care providers vote about whether to join unions. Key among those questions is how many of the 11,000 in-home day-care providers will be allowed to vote. Also unanswered is whether anything the unions negotiate with the state will affect those who are not part of unions. "We are in uncharted waters here," Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, said Monday, because no one can recall a similar election in which private businesses are being asked to vote to form a union to negotiate with the state.
ST. PAUL -- Democrats make it clear they blame Republicans for rising property taxes, and will do that even louder in next year's campaigns. They hope the charge sticks this time. Democratic-Farmer-Laborite candidates for years have said GOP budget cuts, or lack of tax increases, have forced local governments to raise property taxes. It is happening again after a the Republican-controlled Legislature passed and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton approved a new law that changed the homestead market value credit program, which basically cut state payments to local governments.
ST. PAUL -- Ted is ready for the spotlight. Really ready. In fact, he is so ready he escaped from his cage in a dark corner of the governor's reception room Friday and made a break for the bright television lights. Ted proudly strutted past the gubernatorial podium and into plain sight in a large empty area in front of it. Still cameras clicked, video cameras whirred and reporters scribbled notes that looked like turkey scratching. Val Brown quickly launched into action, as the Willmar FFA's chief turkey handler saved the surprised politicians and media from Ted. Gov.
ST. PAUL -- A health-care spending political battle between Minnesota Senate Republicans and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton heightened Tuesday when each side basically called the other a liar. Sen.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans whose taxes are soaring would get a larger property tax refund under a bill House Republicans will push in next year's legislative session. "This is a top-tier priority for our caucus," Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, of the House Taxes Committee said Monday in announcing his bill to increase property tax refunds for homeowners whose property tax bills soar. The Davids plan also would cut $411.85 from every business property tax bill.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans thanked veterans Friday, but one of their most desired honors needs an act of the Legislature and younger blood. Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito said that many ex-military personnel have two major requests: a bronze marker at their grave denoting their veteran status and an American flag on their casket. Honor guards, which handle flag duties, were endangered when state officials forgot to include continued funding in their budget requests, so Gov. Mark Dayton and Shellito found the needed funds on a temporary basis.
ST. PAUL -- Older Minnesota veterans need education help, like those just returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, so the Dayton administration proposes expanding a program to include them, too. Gov. Mark Dayton and Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito on Thursday announced plans to ask the Legislature next year to increase the Minnesota GI Bill's reach to provide benefits to all Minnesota veterans.