Some states pardon a turkey at Thanksgiving time. Not Minnesota.
Minnesota invites a turkey to the State Capitol, then looks around to see who needs a good meal.
"He's going to go to the St. Paul Salvation Army," Gov. Mark Dayton announced Monday morning, nodding down at the huge white bird eyeing him from a cage next to the podium.
The turkey is one of several the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association will be donating this holiday season. Dayton estimated the 36-pound bird will feed 80 people.
The donation is timely this year, as the state's food shelves brace for a cut in federal food stamp assistance, and possible deeper cuts to come as congressional negotiators debate billions of dollars in cuts to the program's funding in the Farm Bill.
The ongoing uncertainty around the Farm Bill is "cruel," Dayton said.
"They're taking away from the neediest people in the nation," he said. "These federal cuts are going to be beyond our capability, or any state's capability to absorb and make up the difference. It's a very, very difficult time for farmers...as well as food recipients. It's a cruel way to treat them in the holiday season."
One out of every 10 Minnesotans -- more than 500,000 people -- receive some form of federal nutrition assistance.
Minnesota is the nation's largest turkey producer. The association plans to donate enough turkeys to feed 12,500 people.
"That's a solid cage," Dayton complimented the turkey growers. Two years ago, the donated turkey made a break for it, but the 2013 bird stood calmly in his crate, blinking at photographers and sitting calmly while the governor patted his white feathers.
That's because this year's bird has been through turkey pardon boot camp. The Burkel family of Badger, Minn., raised the two birds that are heading to Washington, D.C., for an official presidential pardon this week. The family -- John and Joni Burkel and their five children -- groomed a group of their birds for the big day: playing soothing Vivaldi and John Mayer, getting them used to being handled and photographed, and even playing recordings from high school girls' volleyball games to get them used to crowd noises.
The two best-looking, best-behaved birds were sent to Washington, where they will check into a suite at the Willard Hotel, visit the White House and serve as holiday parade marshals at Disney World before retiring to a petting zoo. The third runner up? Well, at least he got to meet the governor.
When turkeys come to visit the Minnesota Capitol, great hilarity ensues.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty got winged in 2004 and wrestled in 2005, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar got a flapping surprise in 2011 and a turkey made a break for it in 2012.
Former Govs. Jesse Ventura (with his own before and after in 1999) and Arne Carlson in 1996 with calmer birds.
What will happen this year? Follow the live blog below to discover. The turkey arrives at 10:45 this morning.
Republican candidate for governor Kurt Zellers and his wife took in $116,222 last year and paid $13,244 in taxes, according to information released by his campaign.
State Rep. Zellers joins DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican rivals state Sen. Dave Thompson and Hennepin County commissioner Jeff Johnson in voluntarily releasing his tax information. Minnesota requires officials to release very little information about their income but some gubernatorial candidates have chosen to add an extra layer of transparency.
Unlike Dayton, Thompson and Johnson, Zellers has not released any information about his charitable giving, despite a request from the Star Tribune. Update: He paid $5,057 in state taxes, according to his campaign.
Donations to charity, or lack thereof, have a caused a bit of turmoil this year as Dayton tax release disclosed that he gave $1,000 to charity last year from his income of more than $340,000.
Republican candidate for governor Scott Honour, a businessman who is believed to be among the most well off of the candidates, will release his tax information, his campaign said.
Republican Marty Seifert, who officially entered the race last week, said he would not follow suit in disclosing details of his income.
Adoption got more expensive for some Minnesota families this year.
Workers who received money from their employers to help offset adoption expenses will now face a state tax bill for that help. Adoptive parents used to be able to write off up to $12,970 in employer assistance. Congress made those tax breaks permanent. Minnesota did not.
It was one of dozens of federal tax breaks that no longer exist in Minnesota, after the Legislature opted against bringing the state tax code into full compliance with Washington. The result are a series of small gaps between state and federal tax returns that could hit everyone from homeowners going through foreclosures to workers who got college tuition assistance from their employers.
Signing off on every single one of Congress's recent tax breaks and extensions would have cost Minnesota $300 million over the next two years. But Gov. Mark Dayton and many lawmakers say there may be enough money in the budget to restore some of the tax breaks.
Restoring the adoption tax break would cost the state an estimated $400,000 in 2014. Allowing workers tax-free employer tuition assistance would cost $4.4 million. Exempting homeowners who go through foreclosures or mortgage debt forgiveness from additional taxes would cost $7.2 million.
Saturday is National Adoption Day and state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, is pledging to introduce legislation next session to eliminate the state adoption tax. There are plenty of items in the state budget that could be trimmed to pay for the tax breaks, Garofalo said: "a very easy way would be to get rid of the $90 million Senate office building."
"Everybody's pro-adoption. Why would you make it more expensive?" Garofalo said. "If we can find hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new Vikings stadium, we can find hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix the adoption tax credit problem."
Gov. Mark Dayton has also said he's "very willing" to look at closing some of the gaps in the tax code, particularly for homeowners who could be hit with a sizable tax bill after going through a foreclosure or short sale.
The Minnesota Legislature returns to work in late February 2014, after many taxpayers begin filing their taxes.
Emerging anew into the political scene on Thursday, Republican Marty Seifert jumped into the already crowded race to unseat DFL Gov. Mark Dayton next year.
"I think it's a wide open race," Seifert said at a St. Paul announcement.
Seifert, the always quick with a quip former Minnesota legislator, adds a prominent outstate voice to the race. He long represented Marshall, Minnesota in the Legislature and has been the executive director of the Avera Marshall Foundation since late 2010.
This is Seifert's second swing for the seat. He ran in 2010 and dropped out when he lost the Republican endorsement to Tom Emmer.
He said although he will work hard to win the nod at next spring's Republican Party convention he is "open minded" regarding running in a primary if he does not receive that imprimatur.
Seifert, 41, will join other Republicans in that openness. Both businessman Scott Honour and state Rep. Kurt Zellers have made clear they will continue to run if convention activists pick someone else. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and state Sen. Dave Thompson have said they will abide by the endorsement. All four of those candidates hail from the Twin Cities suburbs.
Seifert differs from those four in saying he will not release his tax information to the public. Dayton has long released his; Johnson and Thompson released theirs and officials from Honour and Zellers' campaigns have said theirs will be on the way as well.
Seifert said he has moved to part time work at the medical foundation and will phase out of that job entirely in December so that he can concentrate on his campaign.
“Once before former Rep. Marty Seifert tried to convince the right-wing activists in the Republican Party that he would carry their conservative torch through a gubernatorial election," said DFL Chair Ken Martin. Martin claimed the lesson of the 2013 elections was that Republicans should offer up someone who can work with both Democrats and Republicans. "It will be interesting to see if Republican activists got that memo.”
When Seifert ran three years ago, Republican activists saw Emmer as more exciting choice and a better conservative standard barer. Emmer, who is now running for the U.S. House seat Rep. Michele Bachmann will vacate, went on to narrowly lose to Dayton in what otherwise was a very good year to the GOP.
State Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, was a Emmer supporter in 2010 and is now backing Seifert. He said that, in retrospect, Seifert may have been able to beat Dayton back then and he believes he can do it next year.