With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

November tax collections slightly more than projected

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez under State budgets Updated: December 10, 2014 - 3:51 PM

Minnesotans paid more than $1.3 billion in state taxes in November, about $2 million more than state budget officials predicted in its most recent forecast.

The November forecast, released last week, projects that lawmakers will have a $1-billion surplus with which to craft a budget for the 2016-17 biennium.

The Minnesota Management and Budget Office on Wednesday said that the monthly revenue report was in line with the overall budget and economic forecast from a week ago.

Individual income tax collections were $517 million, or 2.2 percent more than projected. Sales taxes  hit their target, coming in at $432 million as previously expected.

Other form of revenue beat targets by $8 million. The state has taken in $7.3 billion for the 2015 fiscal year, about $2 million more than November projections. 

Minnesota budget officials urge caution in interpreting revenue numbers, which can fluctuate wildly from month to month.

Sen. Klobuchar gets tourism promotion measure tucked in spending bill

Posted by: Allison Sherry under Morning Hot Dish newsletter, Minnesota U.S. senators Updated: December 10, 2014 - 3:26 PM

WASHINGTON -- A measure to boost tourism to the United States -- via a tax international travelers pay when they visit -- has been included in the massive government spending bill expected to pass Congress this week.

The measure, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, funds Brand USA, a private-public hybrid organization that promotes the United States as a vacation destination abroad.

Half of Brand's budget comes from the private sector, the other half is funded by a fee assessed on the international visitors screened at ports of entry across the United States. 

Klobuchar said in a statement Wednesday that tourism in the United States drove billions in U.S. sales every year and created jobs in Minnesota.

"Reauthorizing Brand USA will help us continue to attract more visitors to the United States," she said.

The measure, tucked in the appropriations bill to fund the federal government, reauthorizes the fee for another five years. Brand USA says due to their outreach abroad, an additional 1 million international tourists visited the U.S. in 2013.

Votes are expected by the end of the week.

Gov. Dayton shuffles two posts at top of his cabinet

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: December 10, 2014 - 1:56 PM

Going into his second term, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton will have new commissioners in two top posts.

Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans will take over Minnesota Management and Budget from longtime finance staffer and commissioner Jim Schowalter, according to documents obtained by the Star Tribune and confirmed by Dayton's office. Frans' deputy Cynthia Bauerly will take over the Revenue commissioner spot.

Frans and Schowalter have been trusted Dayton advisors.

Schowalter, who had also worked in Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration, oversaw the state's budget and finances, through a massive deficit and contentious government shutdown and to its current standing with nearly a $1 billion surplus.

“I have relied heavily on his wise counsel, and the entire State of Minnesota has benefited greatly from his outstanding service," Dayton said of the departing Schowalter. Schowalter, who has been with Minnesota's finance agency for two decades, will become the president and CEO of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans.

Frans is the oft-smiling former tax attorney, who left the private sector to join the Dayton administration in 2010. He worked with the governor on crafting the state's 2013 tax package, which raised income taxes on the wealthy and others, and a large package of 2014 tax refunds and tax credits.

Bauerly, an attorney, only joined the Dayton administration in 2013, after she left her role as a commissioner of the Federal Election Commission. She is well versed in the ways of Minnesota, she has worked with the state's politicians, including now-U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and earned her bachelor's degree from Concordia College in Moorhead.

“During the past four years, Commissioner Myron Frans has shown his superb ability to manage our State's finances, as Commissioner of Revenue,” said Dayton said in a statement.

Of Bauerly, he said: "Her previous experiences as a Deputy Commissioner at both Revenue and the Department of Employment and Economic Development and in federal law, management and policy, have prepared her well to assume these very important responsibilities.”

Other than the shuffle in Revenue and MMB few changes among commissioners are expected in the second Dayton administration.

In November, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board commissioner Tony Sertich said he would step down as did Metropolitan Council chair Susan Haigh. In early December, Carolyn Parnell, commissioner of MN.IT, the agency that manages the technology systems, said she would not stay through a second term.

Here's the full second term cabinet roster, as released by the Dayton administration:

Matt Massman, Department of Administration

David Frederickson, Department of Agriculture

Mike Rothman, Department of Commerce

Thomas Roy, Department of Corrections

Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Department of Education

Katie Sieben, Department of Employment and Economic Development

Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Department of Health

Larry Pogemiller, Office of Higher Education

Mary Tingerthal, Housing Finance Agency

Kevin Lindsey, Department of Human Rights

Lucinda Jesson, Department of Human Services

Ken Peterson, Department of Labor and Industry

Myron Frans, Minnesota Management and Budget

Josh Tilsen, Bureau of Mediation Services

Gen. Richard Nash, Department of Military Affairs

Thomas Landwehr, Department of Natural Resources

John Linc Stine, Pollution Control Agency

Ramona Dohman, Department of Public Safety

Cynthia Bauerly, Department of Revenue

Charlie Zelle, Department of Transportation

Larry Shellito, Department of Veterans Affairs


Photos: Top, Myron Frans, addressing a legislative tax committee in 2013; Bottom, Jim Schowalter, last week,  announcing the state had a nearly $1 billion expected surplus/Source: Glen Stubbe, Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune


Minnesota Senate sets committee schedule

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: December 11, 2014 - 11:16 AM

Capitol-watchers, set your calendars.

The Minnesota Senate has set its committee schedule for 2015.

The roster includes shorter hearings than the Senate had in 2013-2014 and fewer committees, a nod to the massive Capitol renovation that will substantially alter the space availability.

“The space available for Senate committees has been reduced to three hearing rooms, forcing a realignment of the committee schedule and structure,” Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook,  said in a statement. “The 2015 Senate committee schedule creates the efficiencies necessary, given the space limitations due to renovation of the Capitol.”

The new session will be filled with two-hour and 90-minute hearings. This year, the Senate had two-and-a-half hour hearings on the schedule.

View the previously announced House hearing schedule and committee chairs here.

Here are all the details of the Senate plan:

(Note: After this schedule was released, the location for the State Departments and Veterans Division was changed to room 112.)

2015 Comm Chair and Grid by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

Photo: The outside of the Capitol, under construction//Source: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Rep. Michele Bachmann final speech includes nods to Moses, her staff, her donors and Minnesota

Posted by: Allison Sherry under Morning Hot Dish newsletter, 6th District Updated: December 10, 2014 - 12:47 PM

WASHINGTON -- In her final floor speech, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann started talking about a statue on the top of the U.S. Capitol, moved onto Moses and the Ten Commandments, and then capped it with gratitude for her staff, her donors and the guy who literally drives the trains in the basement of the Capitol.

"It's an honor and it's the ride of a lifetime," she said. "I'm so filled with joy and so much happiness and understanding that the privilege that I have is one of being really a link on a chain. It's gone on for hundreds of years and I stand right here on the soil in the square feet that are the freest square feet in the world."

She said the reason why there is government is to secure for everyone "the rights God gave us." She talked about Moses, who the Bible says delivered the Ten Commandments.

"It's an honor. Where else could we find this level of freedom anywhere in the world?" she said, standing alone on the House floor. "This is the room where the laws of our nation's laws are formulated."

Bachmann thanked her donors. She thanked her "prayer warriors" -- people who prayed for her through her political ups and downs -- and she thanked her staff and some Capitol employees, including James, who drives the train between House Office Buildings and the Capitol. She thanked the constituents in Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District. And she thanked veterans

"It is our job not to think only of ourselves but to think of the generations that are yet to come," she said. "My favorite Americans are people who didn't know they were Americans. They were the Pilgrims."

The 113th Congress is finishing up its work this week. The new 114th Congress is sworn in early January. GOP Rep.-elect Tom Emmer will replace Bachmann, who hasn't said what she is going to do next.


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