Good morning, and happy Friday. Positive thought for the day: Yes, the weather in Minnesota gives us a lot to complain about, but at least we don’t get hurricanes. Here’s the Digest.
1. Poll shows Walz with lead. Less than two months before Election Day, a KSTP/Survey USA Poll of the Minnesota governor’s race shows Democrat Tim Walz has a seven-point lead over Republican Jeff Johnson, 47 percent to 40 percent with 10 percent undecided. The poll of 587 likely voters has a margin of error of +-4.9 percent. “I’m never comfortable in an election, but what I am comfortable with is our message is resonating,” Walz said. Johnson acknowledged Walz probably has a small lead, but said he remains confident. “Polls are always interesting, they’re often incorrect, too,” Johnson said. The same poll finds DFL Sen. Tina Smith with a 9-point lead over Republican Karin Housley, 48 percent to 39 percent, with 11 percent undecided. It also finds DFL Senator Amy Klobuchar is leading her Republican challenger Jim Newberger 53 to 38 percent. (KSTP-TV)
2. Candidates for governor differ on opioid response. The two candidates for governor differed Thursday in how best the state should tackle the opioid epidemic, as they spoke to county leaders worried about the increasing burden on local budgets of preventing and treating addiction. Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz said he’d pick up the push on a “penny a pill” proposal that would have pharmaceutical companies pay a fee for the opioids they sell. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and a bipartisan group of state lawmakers unsuccessfully pursued that in this year’s legislative session. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the Republican candidate, does not support that approach, which he said amounts to a new tax. He said the money should instead come directly from the state’s general fund, which is fueled by income taxpayers and other state taxes. Walz and Johnson talked about opioids and other issues at the fall policy conference of the Association of Minnesota Counties in Alexandria, taking questions from county commissioners on a range of issues that included transportation funding, polarization in Minnesota politics, and frustration with top-down governance and unfunded mandates. (Star Tribune)
3. What to do with all those soybeans? As the U.S. trade war with China rages, farmers in Minnesota and North Dakota are anticipating a strong soybean harvest, leaving them scrambling for ways to deal with excess, unsold beans. Most years, farmers sell soybeans soon — and sometimes immediately — after harvest. In 2016, Minnesota exported $2.1 billion of soybeans. China was the biggest buyer. But a trade war means that, at least for now, China isn’t buying U.S. soybeans. And many farmers are scrambling to find ways to store the soybean crop they can’t sell. “It’s a confusing… complex market. Anybody who can predict what it’s going to absolutely do maybe should buy lottery tickets,” said David Kee, director of research for the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council. Kee was staffing a booth this week at the Big Iron Farm Show in West Fargo, N.D., where about 70,000 people check out the latest ag trends and equipment every year. His advice to farmers: Do the best you can to preserve the quality of this year’s crop until the tariff issue is resolved. (MPR News)
4. U of M prepares big ask from lawmakers. University of Minnesota leaders plan to ask the Legislature for an additional $87 million next biennium with no promises for how they’ll spend it. That would represent a 6.7 percent increase to the two-year, $1.3 billion base appropriation the U regularly gets from the state. “We think it’s attainable,” Finance Vice President Brian Burnett said. Two years ago, the U asked for a 10.1 percent increase and ended up with 3.6 percent. The U made that request with a pledge to freeze undergraduate tuition for Minnesota residents. When the money didn’t come through, they raised tuition by 2 percent each year. This time, U administrators say they’ll streamline the ask. Rather than asking the Legislature to negate the need for a tuition hike or to fund specific initiatives, they’ll simply ask for more money. If successful, the U says it still would have to come up with another $114 million over two years by cutting costs, raising tuition or finding revenue elsewhere; that assumes they’ll pay back-to-back 2.5 percent increases in employee compensation. (Pioneer Press)
5. There might have been fireworks in St. Paul after all. Mayor Melvin Carter’s office declined multiple offers to help pull together a July 4 fireworks display in St. Paul after he announced in late June that the annual event would not happen. The St. Paul Saints baseball team rounded up corporate sponsors for fireworks at CHS Field. Hiway Federal Credit Union offered to donate $50,000 that could be matched by other businesses. Council Member Jane Prince asked if she could solicit private donations. The mayor and his staff considered these offers but ultimately decided against accepting them, according to e-mails and voice mails obtained by the Star Tribune through a public records request. “I’m moving on from this & not going to ask anybody for money for it,” Carter said in a June 28 e-mail to Deputy Mayor Jaime Tincher, adding that they would soon be raising money for other city initiatives. “Let’s not make competing asks.” (Star Tribune)