Good morning and happy Wednesday. Here’s the Digest.
1. Gov. Mark Dayton says the latest budget forecast is no reason to panic, even though it shows the state facing a deficit for the first time in years. Minnesota budget projections show a deficit of $188 million for the current two-year budget cycle, and a projected negative balance of $586 million for the 2020-21 biennium. The deficits are due to a reduced U.S. economic growth forecast and impacts of enacted legislation during the 2017 session, according to the November forecast released Tuesday by Minnesota Management and Budget. Unknowns in federal policy and the current economic expansion, one of the longest in U.S. history, create significant risk for this forecast. “It’s not a sign of any kind of systemic problem, or certainly not a crisis,” Dayton said. Noting the uncertainty surrounding the forecast Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka called it, “Obsolete on arrival.” (MPR News)
2. A majority of Minnesotans believe they’re getting a good return on the money they pay in taxes. Minnesota collected about 11 percent of the state’s economy in state taxes in 2015, not counting federal taxes or those from local governments. That’s the 10th highest share of the economy of the 50 states. A recent survey of 1,654 Minnesota adults found a majority of believe “government in Minnesota is providing a good value for the taxes you pay.” This wasn’t true in all groups. Notably, a majority of Republicans — the party that emphasizes lower taxes and smaller government — thought Minnesotans aren’t getting good value for their taxes. Meanwhile, Democrats overwhelmingly said Minnesota government does give a good value. There are differences within the parties, too. Democrats and Republicans with more education are more likely to agree that they get a good deal for their state taxes. (MPR News)
3. A new round of training aimed at preventing sexual harassment began Tuesday at the Minnesota Capitol. The expectation is that most lawmakers and many staff will go through a course before the next session gets too far along. The first course was attended by Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, staff members and others. At least two more will be offered in the Senate prior to the 2018 session that starts in February. Every member of Bakk’s caucus will be expected to attend the training. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka of Nisswa says training will be paramount for Republican senators who haven’t had it in the last five years. “For the legislators, they are elected officials, we can say you must take it. If they decide not to take it we can’t fire them. But there are some other consequences we can and will do,” Gazelka said. “For staff, it’s a different issue. If they don’t take it they’re not going to work in the Senate.” (MPR News)
4. Arrests and deportations of immigrants are up in Minnesota and surrounding states. Immigration arrests in Minnesota and surrounding states increased by two-thirds this past fiscal year under the Trump administration’s tougher enforcement approach. Meanwhile, deportations jumped by more than half, according to numbers released Tuesday. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s St. Paul office arrested 4,175 people in Minnesota, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Iowa during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Of those detained, 73 percent had criminal convictions, compared with 87 percent of the immigrants the agency arrested the year before. (Star Tribune)
5. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek is battling a move by the County Board to take control of the crime lab and potentially merge it with that of the Minneapolis Police Department. The proposal, submitted by Commissioners Marion Greene and Linda Higgins, is scheduled for a vote Wednesday as part of the board’s final tweaking of the 2018 budget. Since he learned about it last week, Stanek has waged an intense lobbying effort with police chiefs, mayors and city managers to defeat the action. If the board approves the measure, the crime lab would be run by a new department set up by county administration in less than a month. Greene said that the national trend is to separate crime labs from both law enforcement officials and prosecutors, much like Hennepin County’s nationally recognized medical examiner’s office is managed. (Star Tribune)