Gov. Mark Dayton is blasting legislative Republicans for refusing to pay for additional construction projects that could bring new economic development to the state.
“They are just dead wrong,” Dayton said Tuesday. “The Republicans have been wrong on this since I arrived. They are short-changing projects all around the state that are job-creating projects.”
Democratic and Republican legislative leaders cut a deal last year to limit new construction spending to about $850 million this session. They made the agreement before a strong economic turnout left the state with a surplus of more than $1.2 billion.
Dayton says the strengthening economy and strong budget outlook give the state more cushion to increase statewide borrowing to pay for roughly $400 million in additional projects.
Since state borrowing requires a two-thirds vote, the measure gives Republicans a rare moment of leverage as Democrats control both the House and the Senate.
Republicans say that the state should not run up taxpayer debt, and leaders have publicly not budged from the $850 million target. They say that the agreed upon number fits with historical averages and see no reason to break from it now.
The statewide construction measure stands as one of the last major initiatives to get completed in the final weeks of the legislative session.
Dayton said a recent Star Tribune story about an unfinished water project in southwestern Minnesota “is a prime example of where the lack of a public investment has crippled that area for economic growth.”
The governor said he is willing to fully fund the water project if it would persuade some GOP legislators to support a higher borrowing measure.
“I don’t think they have a toenail to stand on to justify this rigid ideology,” Dayton said. Holding to that number “would deny a whole range of projects around the state because of their fiscal ideology.”
A city councilman from St. Michael is running in the August primary for a Wright County-area House seat against a fellow Republican who snatched the party's endorsement from a sitting lawmaker.
Kevin Kasel launched his campaign Tuesday. He will run in the Republican primary for the House District 30B seat against Eric Lucero, a city councilman in nearby Dayton who in February won the GOP endorsement for the seat over state Rep. David FitzSimmons.
Lucero was critical of FitzSimmons' vote last year to legalize gay marriage. FitzSimmons was one of only four House Republicans to back the bill. FitzSimmons briefly considered a primary challenge but opted against it. The primary is on August 12.
Kasel says he supported FitzSimmons for the endorsement and only decided to run in the primary once the incumbent decided not to. He described himself as a solid conservative, but suggested he'd be more effective at getting things done at the Capitol than Lucero.
Lucero did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
In addition to serving on the St. Michael City Council since 2007, Kasel has worked for Best Buy and other companies as a process management consultant. Lucero, besides his service on the Dayton City Council, is an IT manager at an information security firm.
Describing himself as “all in” as a U.S. Senate candidate, Minnesota State Rep. Jim Abeler said Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to his longtime House seat.
Flanked by family and supporters, Abeler, R-Anoka, a 16-year House veteran, said Tuesday that the decision to give up his seat was difficult but necessary to devote his time to the Senate race. He added that he will likely run in a primary if he doesn’t receive the Republican Party endorsement.
Abeler, a leader in the Health and Human Services field, said it’s time to take his knack for collaboration to Washington in hopes of breaking what he called a seemingly hopeless partisan gridlock.
“I grieve when I see what’s happening in Washington, I grieved during the shutdown,” Abeler said. “These people do not know how to get anything accomplished.’”
Abeler is backing Abigail Whelan of Anoka to fill his House seat. It’s the first foray into running for office for Whelan, 26, a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Whelan previously served as a legislative assistant for State Sen. John Pedersen, R-St. Cloud, and campaign manager for former Sen. Mike Jungbauer, R-East Bethel. She currently works as an administrative assistant for a home health care company.
Abeler said he chose to step aside because “it’s hard to have a foot in both camps,” but also to be fair to Whelan, who has been endorsed by Anoka County Republicans.
“If people think that she is a placeholder then that affects fundraising, it affects focus and it affects people’s confidence.” Abeler said, adding that it wasn’t easy to step aside—no less than 57 people asked him to run for a ninth term. But the Senate run is paramount.
Abeler has made more than 300 campaign stops throughout the state since announcing his candidacy last June. He is one of seven Republicans vying for Sen. Al Franken’s seat, including businessman Mike McFadden and State Sen. Julianne Ortman. Abeler, who has raised $109,250, lacks the funding of McFadden and Ortman, but said his experience, name recognition and willingness to collaborate will likely take him far.
“If good people don’t go to Washington, Washington cannot be good,” Abeler said. “Washington is supposed to be us. St. Paul is supposed to be us.”
See the updated list of legislative retirements here.
Parents of ailing children, doctors and clergy are intensifying their push to persuade legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton to legalize medical marijuana this year.
“Our leaders here in Minnesota have the opportunity to heal the sick and bind up the injured,” said the Rev. Catherine Schuyler, of Duluth. “They have the opportunity to make good medicine available to those who are in pain.”
Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, the group leading their effort, held a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday to announce that 100 doctors and religious leaders from around the state support the measure.
The proposal would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients with a host of ailments, including children who suffer from seizure disorders.
Federal regulators do not consider marijuana to have a medical benefit, so doctors are barred from prescribing it.
Dayton is bowing to the strong objections of law enforcement and health officials, who say that the change would make it easier for marijuana to end up in the hands of children and recreational users.
Dayton has tried to seek a compromise, offering to have the state pay for a Mayo Clinic study that would allow at least 200 children with seizures to be part of trials to see if marijuana does have medical benefits.
The study could provide new and potentially ground-breaking medical research in what has become a very political issue in Minnesota and around the country.
Medical marijuana advocates have so far rejected the study proposal, saying there is no guarantee that Mayo Clinic could legally obtain marijuana for the trial.
So advocates resumed their push for legalization, saying public opinion and existing medical research is on their side.
“Studies have shown that medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for people suffering from nausea, appetite loss and pain that are often caused by HIV/AIDS or the medical used to treat it,” said Bill Tiedemann, executive director of the Minnesota AIDS project.
No doctors or medical professionals attended the news conference, but the Minnesota Nurses Association released a statement of support.
“We believe this legislation will result in positive health outcomes for the sickest patients in Minnesota,” the group said.
Gov. Mark Dayton and the state’s top tourism official are making a dramatic push to increase tourism with a new campaign to showcase things visitors can do only in Minnesota.
“We are going much more aggressively trying to reach the out-of-state travelers,” Explore Minnesota Tourism director John Edman said.
An additional $11 million in state funding is allowing tourism officials to reach outside the immediate market, spreading for the first time into Missouri, Kansas and western states.
The campaign features new television commercials and showcase local music along and an aggressive social media effort that officials hope will allow them to engage with people thinking about visiting Minnesota.
“This new campaign is a movement that will highlight unique Minnesota attractions and engage consumers in conversation about Minnesota travel,” Edman said. “This cutting-edge campaign allows our state to be more competitive, and grow tourism across Minnesota.”
Tourism officials are trying to get an edge locally as states like Wyoming, Michigan and Wisconsin are spending millions to lure Minnesotans to their states.
Without an aggressive campaign, Edman said, Minnesota would lose out to other states, many of which still have higher tourism budgets.
Edman said the new campaign is designed to help Minnesota hold and grow what is already a $12.5 billion tourism industry, which employs more than 245,000 workers.
“We want to make it a preferred destination,” he said.
Tourism officials are paying for the new campaign from a 65 percent increase in their funding authorized in Dayton's budget.
"We have a great state and so much to offer," Dayton said.
Tourism officials said research shows that travelers want to experience something new when they travel, which is why they created the theme, “Only in Minnesota.” The ads showcase Minnesota’s outdoor adventures, cultural amenities and landmarks.
Tourism officials are encouraging visitors share photos and Minnesota travel experiences on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media by using the official campaign hashtag #OnlyinMN. Some of the images will be featured in future billboards or sent out via social media.
Tourism officials have also revamped their website making it more user-friendly and functional for smart phones. The website features vivid images and a live-chat function where visitors can ask questions about Minnesota destinations.
The website overhaul was part of Dayton’s initiative to have state agencies revamp communication with the public to make it in plainer language and more easy to understand.
“We have seen tremendous growth in visitor site traffic through mobile devices,” Edman said. “We need to meet travelers where they are, and that means being accessible on mobile devices and social media.”
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