Minnesota 2020, a progressive think tank that DFL politician Matt Entenza founded seven years ago, is shutting its doors.
Stuart Alger, a Minneapolis attorney and board of directors chairman for Minnesota 2020, confirmed Monday that the board made the decision last week. Dave Colling, a veteran DFL operative who has frequently worked for Entenza, has been brought in to help the organization close down in an orderly fashion.
Minnesota 2020 delved into many public policy questions facing the state, producing lengthy and deeply researched reports on everything from transportation and energy policy to education and taxes. The group also frequently sponsored public forums featuring high-profile politicians and other civic leaders.
Alger said six to eight full-time employees would be laid off. He said most are writers, researchers and web specialists.
The organization is a 501c3 non-profit, and was funded in large part by donations from organized labor, foundations and private sources. "The funding just hasn't been there as it was in the past," said Alger, an attorney at Stinson Leonard Street in Minneapolis.
Entenza did not immediately respond to an interview request.
Entenza is a former state House minority leader from St. Paul. He founded Minnesota 2020 in June 2007, about a year after an unsuccessful bid for state attorney general.
Entenza tried to revive his political career in 2010 with a run for governor, but finished third in the DFL primary. He re-surfaced this year with a surprise primary challenge to DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto, which he also lost.
With that last race, Entenza incurred the wrath of many in the DFL establishment, most notably state party chairman Ken Martin. But Alger said he had received no indication that anger toward Entenza led to the drop in donor support.
"We think Minnesota 2020 really provided a lot of good reliable content over seven years, and we're very proud of the work we've done," Alger said.
Gov. Mark Dayton picked up more union support for his re-election Monday with the endorsement of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters.
The union represents about 1,600 fire fighters, paramedics, EMTs and dispatchers in 40 communities around the state. Union president Chris Parsons, a St. Paul firefighter, said the union's longtime veterans consider Dayton more attentive to their concerns than any other governor going back 40 years. Dayton has been "extremely attentive to public safety matters when it comes to fire safety," Parson said.
Unlike many unions that reliably back Democrats, the fire fighters union has crossed over to back Republicans, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whom the group backed in both 2002 and 2006. But Pawlenty angered fire fighters toward the end of his term when he proposed diverting money from a state firefighter training account funded by a surcharge on homeowner and commercial assistance.
Fire fighters say the account is needed for up-to-date training and equipment, and Dayton has opposed any move to eliminate it. Parsons also praised Dayton for restoring a higher level of state aid to local governments, which he said allowed many cities to hire and retain fire fighters.
Parsons said Dayton's Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, did not reach out to the group to vie for its endorsement.
Parsons said the union has several items on its legislative wishlist next year: enhanced training and equipment tooled for response to possible oil train or pipeline spills; a larger role in community medical response that would allow emergency responders to play a more pro-active role in keeping people out of emergency rooms; and a ban on flame retardant materials in homes that, Parsons said, have been linked in some studies to higher cancer rates in fire fighters.
Dayton said the sacrifice made by fire fighters and their families makes it imperative for political leaders to be responsive to their agenda.
"Whatever I can do, whatever the state of Minnesota government can do to support you in your undertakings is something I feel a personal obligation to do to the maximum extent possible," Dayton said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is campaigning Monday in Hudson, Wis., for Gov. Scott Walker's re-election bid, also has plans to campaign for Jeff Johnson in Minnesota in two weeks.
Johnson's campaign confirmed Monday that Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, would appear with Johnson on Oct. 13. Spokesman Jeff Bakken said details of the event are still being worked out and would be released later.
Christie, the second-term governor of New Jersey, is seen as a competitor for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination though he saw his reputation tarnished by a local scandal earlier this year.
On Monday, Christie and Walker are touring Empire Bucket, a manufacturing firm in Hudson. Walker is in a tough re-election fight against Democrat Mary Burke.
Johnson is not attending the event across the St. Croix River from the Twin Cities. Bakken said he is fundraising.
Christie campaigned for the last Republican candidate for governor in Minnesota, appearing at a Blaine rally for Tom Emmer in 2010.
President Obama will reappoint former Minnesota congressman Bill Frenzel to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, which provides policy advice to the White House on trade matters.
President Bush appointed Frenze, a Republican,l to the committee in 2002; he served as the panel’s chairman from 2002 to 2011. Frenzel also served on Bush’s Tax Reform Commission.
From 1971 to 1991, Frenzel represented the Third Congressional District, the seat currently held by GOP U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen.
A version of this item appeared in Morning Hot Dish, the Star Tribune's daily political newsletter. To sign up, go to StarTribune.com/membercenter, check the Politics newsletter box and save the change.
U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden on Friday laid out a proposal to do away with the Affordable Care Act in favor of optional state exchanges with the opportunity to buy insurance across borders.
The proposal is part of a six-page detailed outline by McFadden, a Republican businessman who is challenging U.S. Sen. Al Franken. McFadden has long advocated for repealing the ACA.
“I fundamentally believe that healthcare should not be done at the federal level, but should be state-based and market-centered,” McFadden told reporters Friday. “I think if it continues to be run and administered at the federal level, it will ultimately look like the (Veterans Administration) and that’s not acceptable and that’s not what Minnesotans want.”
McFadden’s proposed system includes a six-point plan to lower costs by expanding Health Savings Accounts, increasing price transparency for medical procedures, allow the pooling of small businesses to procure the same benefits as larger corporations, allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines, and reforming both healthcare tax laws and the tort system.
McFadden said that individual states should be able to decide whether they want to issue individual mandates to purchase health insurance.
“If Minnesota wants to have a mandate or Massachusetts wants to have a mandate, then that’s their decision.” He said. “When I say that states are laboratories for experiments, I want them to experiment. You run into a fundamental problem with a program that’s this large, and covers 1/6th of the economy.”
McFadden maintained that last week’s pullout of PreferredOne, the chief provider in MNsure, is not the fault of the state’s health care exchange, is proof that large patient pools are not effective.
"I'm here to tell you today these pools under Obamacare are not working." he said. "When PreferredOne, who is the 60 percent low-cost provider, comes in and says 'We can't make money,' that's not MNsure, the exchange's fault. What it is, is that the system can't make money."