Good morning, and welcome to Wednesday. Here’s the Digest.
1. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing a $1.5 billion package of public works construction projects for his final legislative session. The bonding bill recommendation released Tuesday includes $542 million for projects at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State campuses. The bulk of the package, $998 million, is divided among state building repair, affordable housing, water infrastructure upgrades and long list of local projects. “It’s a robust bonding bill,” said Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans. A little too robust for legislative Republicans. GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said a bonding bill would need to be “significantly less” than a billion dollars. (MPR News)
2. Former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty says he’s not running for U.S. Senate this year. “I am very interested in public service and service for the common good,” Pawlenty told the Fox Business Network Tuesday. “There are a lot of different ways to do that, but I’ll tell you today that running for the United State Senate in 2018 won’t be part of those plans.” Some Republicans thought Pawlenty was in a unique position to get a campaign off the ground in a hurry, and it’s still not entirely clear whether he’s interested in a 2018 run for governor. As for the Senate, Republican state Sen. Karin Housely has said she will run for the seat. So has DFL Sen. Tina Smith who was appointed to the office after Democrat Al Franken resigned. (MPR News)
3. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democratic candidate for governor, released 10 years of personal federal and state income tax returns Tuesday. Walz and his wife, Gwen, who works in education, reported $208,592 income in 2016, for which they paid $32,670 in federal taxes and $11,928 in Minnesota taxes, according to the returns. That’s an effective tax rate of 21.4 percent. Walz, who was elected in 2006, has forgone cost-of-living wage increases during his House tenure. According to an Oct. 31, 2017, letter to Walz from the House’s office of Members’ Services, those increases were deducted from his pay. “To date you have returned funds to U.S. Treasury reducing the national debt by the amount of $81,684.00.” The actual salary of House members today is $174,000 a year. (Pioneer Press)
4. It would cost taxpayers nearly twice as much to lease a private prison in western Minnesota than to house inmates in county jails, a new report concludes. City officials in Appleton want the state to take over the 1,600 bed prison that’s been closed since 2010. The facility is owned by Tennessee-based CoreCivic, which used to be known as the Corrections Corporation of America. Minnesota’s 10 male correctional facilities are full, so the state leases extra space in county jails at about $55 a day per inmate. The report by Klein McCarthy Architects says leasing the Appleton facility would cost almost $100 dollars a day per inmate. It would cost the state nearly $200 million to buy and fix the prison, spreading the repair bill over 15 years, according to the report. (MPR News)
5. Evie Axdahl of Maplewood, a longtime leader in the Minnesota Republican Party, died of heart failure Sunday at 88. Axdahl was a pillar of the local, state and national Republican parties for decades, working tirelessly behind the scenes to support candidates, build campaign organizations and advocate for conservative causes. “Evie was a trailblazer and a legend,” said Jennifer DeJournet, president of Voices of Conservative Women. “She was an inspiration to me and a champion of Republican women. She was a fierce political operative at a time when women of her generation weren’t.” Axdahl was Minnesota’s Republican national committeewoman from 1989 to 2011, when she stepped down to care for her late husband, former Maplewood Mayor Les Axdahl. (Pioneer Press)