Good morning, and congratulations for making it to Friday. Did you feel it when the federal government shut down overnight? I didn’t think so. Anyway, the House passed a budget bill early this morning that fixes it by spending a lot of money. Here’s the Digest.
1. The IRS still isn’t saying if Minnesotans who paid property taxes early can deduct those payments on their 2017 tax returns. Many Minnesota homeowners rushed to pay this year’s property taxes before the end of last year. They determined — despite a lack of guidance from state and federal tax authorities — that the early payments could save them serious money on their 2017 federal taxes. But the IRS has yet to resolve the matter. “People were hoping that they could realize that additional deduction,” said Geno Fragnito, director of government relations at the Minnesota Society of CPAs. “When, in fact, they don’t know.” Last December, the Minnesota Department of Revenue told Minnesotans to consult tax professionals for guidance. “The [department] still has not come out and said one way or the other how it will be,” Fragnito said. (MPR News)
2. 3M wants trial delayed. 3M Co. has asked a judge to postpone a long-awaited trial, set to begin next week, over groundwater contamination in Washington County, citing a new Health Department report that cast doubt on whether the affected communities suffered health damage. The state report, released Wednesday, concluded that there were no higher rates of cancer, premature births or low-birthweight babies in communities where drinking water was contaminated by a class of 3M chemicals known as PFCs. An environmental researcher hired by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, who is suing 3M, concluded last fall that some communities did suffer adverse health effects. Hennepin County Judge Kevin Burke is scheduled to hold a hearing Friday afternoon to consider 3M’s motion and other pending legal issues in the case, which is set for trial starting Feb. 13. (Star Tribune)
3. Former Sen. Norm Coleman endorsed Karin Housley for the seat he once held. Housley, a Republican, is challenging appointed DFL Sen. Tina Smith in the November special election to fill out the last two years of Al Franken’s term, following his abrupt resignation over sexual harassment allegations. Coleman’s support is the latest signal that Housley is consolidating establishment Republican support behind her bid. The only other declared candidate is Bob Anderson, a dental technician and cable access host. “Karin faced head-on the challenges of being an entrepreneur and raising a family and never blinked,” Coleman, who was senator from 2003 to 2009, until he was unseated by Franken, said in a statement. “I am excited about the positive energy she brings to this election.” Franken wrested the seat from Coleman after a 2008 election that was among the closest in Senate history, with several recounts and a lawsuit ensuing. (Star Tribune)
4. What will happen if St. Paul teachers strike? Teachers in St. Paul are poised to walk off the job Tuesday if they fail to reach an agreement with the school district, which would shutter classes for St. Paul’s 36,869 students. Teachers have been in contract talks with the district since last fall, including seven sessions with a state mediator. Mediation is expected to continue through the weekend. The St. Paul Federation of Teachers includes three bargaining groups: teachers, educational assistants, and a group of other employees that includes cultural specialists and family liaisons. If any of the three groups settles a contract, those employees would not strike. The groups total about 3,700 employees including about 3,100 teachers. (MPR News)
5. State based exchanges beat the federal health care site in enrolling people for health coverage. Insurance enrollment via state-based health insurance exchanges like Minnesota’s MNsure held steady for 2018, while sign-ups declined about 5 percent across the much larger group of states using the federal government’s HealthCare.gov website. The findings by the National Academy for State Health Policy raise a question about whether the intensity of outreach efforts contributed to the difference, since the Trump administration limited marketing for the federal exchange while MNsure and other state-based groups maintained efforts. Also called marketplaces, the exchanges were launched for 2014 as part of the federal Affordable Care Act, which created the websites to help consumers buy coverage and tap federal tax credits. (Star Tribune)