Good morning and welcome to Wednesday. There was some progress to report at the Capitol Tuesday, but not enough to get a deal on all the major budget bills. At least the DFL governor and Republican legislative leaders were meeting, and they plan to meet again today. Here’s the Digest.
1. After a stand-still week, negotiations over a new state budget saw the first real progress Tuesday as Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-led Legislature shifted closer on tax cuts and education spending. Inside a week before the mandatory session adjournment, the sides all presented compromises to their prior positions over a two-year budget likely to top $45 billion and maybe reach $46 billion. Dayton, a DFLer, said offers traded marked “significant movement on both of our sides. We’re still a significant ways apart,” he added. Dayton came up on the amount he’s willing to put into tax cuts while Republicans brought their desired amount down below $1 billion for the next two years. Republicans are now suggesting $875 million in break, which is still more than double what Dayton is willing to give. (MPR News)
2. For years, Capitol officials have been stymied as they tried to find agreement on changing the state’s licenses to be Real ID compliant. But Tuesday evening, they reached a deal that would allow the House and Senate to send a bill to Gov. Mark Dayton this week. “We have to have a Real ID pass in this session or Minnesotans won’t be able to get on airplanes next January,” Dayton said. If the bill becomes law, Minnesota would be the last state to adopt the federal license standards. The deal, which is similar to the measure the Minnesota Senate approved, would leave the issue of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants out of the Real ID debate for now. House and Senate leaders said the bill should be ready for passage Wednesday. (Pioneer Press)
3. State lawmakers rewrote the rules Tuesday for who can be licensed to teach in Minnesota, and how. The House and Senate passed a sweeping, Republican-backed overhaul of Minnesota’s troubled teacher licensing system on a party-line vote and sent the bill to Gov. Mark Dayton, despite doubts that he would sign it. The DFL governor’s education commissioner said she would advise Dayton to block the bill unless Republicans come up with more money to implement the changes they want to make. A bipartisan task force spent more than a year working on reforms they hoped would get qualified educators into classrooms as Minnesota faces a teacher shortage. (Star Tribune)
4. Business owner Dean Phillips of Deephaven on Tuesday launched a congressional campaign against 3rd District Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen. Phillips is a first-time candidate who served as the 5th generation president and CEO of his family’s Phillips Distilling Co. business. He grew up in Edina and holds degrees from Brown University and the U of M’s Carlson School of Management. Paulsen’s voting record shows he’s not the moderate he claims to be, said Phillips in an interview. “His vote on health care, I believe, was abhorrent. I believe that bill will do the exact opposite of what they claim it will. There’s an age tax. I think it will make health care more expensive and available to fewer people.” (MPR News)
5. The federal government sued UnitedHealth Group on Tuesday alleging the Minnetonka-based health care company wrongly received from Medicare at least $1 billion in “risk adjustment” payments based on inaccurate data submissions. The government took issue with what it called “one-sided” chart reviews that focused on maximizing taxpayer dollars to the nation’s largest health insurer, but didn’t correct errors that allegedly inflated the company’s revenue, according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. (Star Tribune)