The Minnesota Senate has already resolved the wrongful termination lawsuit brought by former Republican staffer Michael Brodkorb, but at least one more legal bill must still be paid.
Members of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration will meet Monday afternoon to act on a $77,578.21 invoice from the Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren firm for four months of work.
That pushes the total bill for the Senate’s lawsuit defense up to $396,000. In addition, Senators had earlier agreed to pay Brodkorb a $30,000 severance as part of the settlement agreement reached in September that ended the litigation before it could go to trial.
Brodkorb lost his job in 2011 in the wake of a sexual affair with then-GOP Majority Leader Amy Koch. He claimed unfair treatment based on his gender and was seeking $500,000.
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Just in time for Christmas, state budget officials say Minnesota is sitting on a big surplus and Gov. Dayton says some tax relief is likely. (MPR News)
State agencies in Minnesota and Wisconsin approved a $332.5 million contract this week to build the main portion of the St. Croix Crossing bridge. (MPR News)
A long-awaited environmental study of the PolyMet mine is due out today. MPR News reporter Dan Kraker has a fascinating history of about the long debate over mining in the region. (MPR News)
In a lacerating opinion, a judge refused to consider a reduced jail sentence for Tom Petters, who was convicted of running a Ponzi scheme. (Star Tribune)
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has released the names of 30 priests it believes sexually abused children between 1950 and 2013. (MPR News)
In Congress/National Politics
Republican state Sen. Torrey Westrom launched a campaign Thursday for the U.S. House against longtime DFL Rep. Collin Peterson in the 7th District saying that if elected, he’d work to reduce “overreach” by the federal government. (MPR News)
DFL Rep. Keith Ellison is part of an organized effort by the White House and Democrats to defend and promote the Affordable Care Act. (Star Tribune)
The U.S. House passed a bill Thursday to rein in so-called ‘patent trolls.’ It’s the second major patent bill to pass Congress in three years and a companion Senate bill also appears poised to pass. (National Journal)
Congressional negotiators are close to reaching an accord on a modest budget deal to push off some automatic budget cuts next year. (New York Times)
Even states operating successful health insurance exchanges are having trouble with their data on the back end. (Politico)
55 temporary tax breaks ranging that affect everything from mass transit commuters to NASCAR are scheduled to expire at the end of 2013 and Congress has no immediate plans to renew them. (The Hill)
Dozens of current or former Russian diplomats and their spouses enjoyed luxury vacations and spent tens of thousands of dollars on concert tickets, fine clothing and helicopter rides as they lied about their incomes to get the government to pay their health care bills with money meant for the poor, federal prosecutors said Thursday. (AP via Pioneer Press)
Just in time for Christmas, state budget officials say Minnesota is sitting on a big surplus.
New figures released today by Minnesota Management and Budget show the budget is running a surplus of $1.086 billion. By law, $246 million of that must go to pay off remaining debt to schools, and after paying some other outstanding debts MMB officials say the surplus stands at about $825 million dollars.
Gov. Dayton was quick to say he would use part of that money to cut taxes for businesses and the middle class. He said he would propose using $231 million to repeal three new sales taxes on businesses passed earlier this year by the DFL-controlled Legislature.
The governor’s plan for the surplus also includes an additional $205 million tax cut for the middle class.
That would include eliminating the marriage penalty, which would reduce state taxes for some 640,000 Minnesota taxpayers, Dayton said. “It would also include increasing the working family credit, which would lower state taxes for about 53,000 taxpayers.”
That still leaves more than $300 million for lawmakers to work with when they reconvene in February. But Dayton said he’ll wait for an updated forecast in late February or early March before proposing any additional changes to the current two-year budget.
While Dayton had his eye on spending some of the surplus money, state finance officials counseled caution.
“This forecast shouldn’t be mistaken for money in the bank,” said MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter. “We’re still only in the fifth month of a two year budget, but one thing is clear: With this forecast we will have completely paid back our school shifts and replenished our reserves.”
Schowalter and other budget officials credited an improved economy with more people working and making higher wages with the improvement in the state’s financial outlook. Revenues were up by $787 over earlier projections and state spending was down by $247 million.
Democrats in the Legislature credited the state’s residents and businesses for an improving economy. After years of looking for short term ways to address budget crises, DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen said refilling budget reserves gives state leaders more options for how to move forward in the long term.
“What we’ve been forced to do is make short term decisions,” the Minneapolis lawmaker said. “And now we can actually look and do the job that we really should be doing, which is what do we want to look like five and 10 years from now and what can we do today to make sure that we can get there?”
Republicans in the Legislature, who had earlier criticized Democrats for not fully repaying the delays in school payments, were left to speculate about how much larger the surplus might have been had Democrats not raised taxes during the last session.
“While Democrats are doing a victory lap because the state has more money, unfortunately Minnesota families aren’t in that same situation,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said Republicans would back Dayton’s effort to repeal the business sales taxes.
Dayton and the Democratic majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate passed a $2 billion tax increase last session, which they said would help stabilize state finances. But those changes have only been in place since July, and the revenue impact from an income tax increase on top earners won’t show up in state accounting until next year. Republicans contend the tax increases will ultimately have a chilling effect on Minnesota’s economy.
The new forecast numbers will help state lawmakers begin their planning for the 2014 legislative session, which begins on Feb. 25. The additional money will spur competition among interest groups. There’s already a push underway to give a 5 percent raise to group-home employees and in-home care providers.
Good morning! Hopefully your post-storm cleanup isn’t too rough. Please send any comments, tips and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter at @mprpolitics or @brettneely. In Minnesota In response to a lawsuit, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is insisting that current law allows him to accept voter registrations that are submitted electronically. Read more →
Republican state Sen. Torrey Westrom said tonight he plans to run against DFL U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District. Westrom will announce his campaign at an event Thursday in Moorhead. Westrom also will hold an event in his hometown of Elbow Lake in northwest Minnesota later in the afternoon. An attorney, Westrom Read more →
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is insisting that current law allows him to accept voter registrations that are submitted electronically. Ritchie formally responded today to a lawsuit challenging his recent launch of an online voter registration system. Four Republican legislators and two election watchdog groups filed the lawsuit in Ramsey County claiming the secretary Read more →
Some Republican gubernatorial candidates took shots at DFL Gov. Mark Dayton this week for his support of the new Vikings stadium, but one also appeared to use the issue against a GOP rival. Read more →
Good morning! Stay safe in the snow today. We hope you’re enjoying the return of the Daily Digest. Please send your comments and tips to email@example.com. In Minnesota Football fans may have cheered the groundbreaking for the new Vikings stadium but critics of the stadium deal were quick to again warn that the public may Read more →
Today’s groundbreaking ceremony in Minneapolis for the new Vikings stadium was a celebration for supporters of the $1 billion project, but it was also a chance for critics to take one more shot at what they view as a risky deal. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was among those celebrating outside the Metrodome. He also used Read more →
Welcome back to the Daily Digest after a long hiatus. We’re interested in your ideas, suggestions and tips so please send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org. In Minnesota An economic forecast due out later this week will help set the tone for the 2014 session. (MPR News) An independent panel says Minnesota’s sex offender treatment program Read more →