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, and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

Posts about President Obama

St. Paul mayor at White House, talks up paid leave for city employees

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 23, 2015 - 9:51 AM

WASHINGTON -- St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is talking up the city's paid leave policy at the White House Friday -- an idea generating popularity nationally and touted by President Barack Obama in this week's State of the Union address.

St. Paul started giving opportunities for its 2,700 employees to take paid paternity as of Jan. 1. Non-birth parents get two weeks and birth parents get four weeks. St. Paul was among the first cities nationally to adopt the plan.

The policy will cost the city about $200,000 annually, though Coleman says he expects to make that back in retaining talented staffers amid the state's booming economy.

Coleman says it helps the city stay competitive with the private sector.

"Everyone says you should run government like a business," he said. "We'll never be able to offer the benefits that Google does ... but this helps."

On Tuesday's State of the Union address, Obama touted the plan.

"Today, we're the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers ... And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I'll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own."

Coleman shares a panel with the mayors of Knoxville, Tenn and Atlanta, Georgia. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez will also be there.

Rep. John Kline: No new federal programs for community colleges

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 21, 2015 - 4:07 PM

WASHINGTON -- Less than 12 hours after President Barack Obama touted an idea to provide free community college to some students, the chairman of the House Education Committee had a message: No new federal programs.

Republican Rep. John Kline, who represents Minnesota's Second Congressional District and is at the helm of the Education Committee, said he wasn't interested in taking on the president's proposal to make community college free. Kline said he didn't agree with the how the White House planned to pay for it -- by increasing capital gains taxes -- and he didn't think a new federal program was the way to move forward.

In his annual address to both chambers of Congress, Obama proposed free community colleges to students on track to graduate and who had good grades. He said higher education was in the nation's interest and helped strengthen the middle class.

"Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy without a load of debt," Obama said.

But Kline noted existing Pell grants and federal financial aid packages were available for low-income students. In Minnesota, 130,048 people were undergraduates at community and technical colleges. Of those 63 percent sought financial aid and about 35 percent were eligible for Pell grants. The average community college tuition in Minnesota is $5,370 a year.

Kline called the idea too lofty and rhetorically questioned why the president stopped at community colleges. "Why not say all college is free?" he said, in a press gathering in his office Wednesday morning.

Kline said his first priority is getting a No Child Left Behind overhaul to the House floor within the next eight weeks. He said he is optimistic, with a Republican-controlled Senate this time, that they could find common ground and send a bill to President Obama this year.

The chairman also noted he wants to reauthorize the higher education act, but that "we can't just create a new program that we can't pay for."

On taxes, Obama, Dayton on same page for cuts

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 20, 2015 - 8:34 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama wants broad tax reform:

According to his proposal, which is paid for by increasing capital gains taxes and close the “trust fund loophole.” His plan:

He would give a $3,000 credit per young child to make child care more available and affordable.

He would cut taxes, a credit of up to $500, for middle class families when both spouses work.

He expands the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage earners without children.

He promotes a minimum wage increase.

He will tout state partnerships that adopt paid leave and ensure Americans can earn paid sick days.

In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday echoed a similar sentiment, saying he wanted tax relief for parents with young kids.  St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman on Friday will be at the White House to discuss St. Paul’s newly enacted paid parental leave policy. On the minimum wage, Minnesota had the largest wage increase in the country last year when Dayton bumped it to $9.50 an hour. 

Minnesota delegation dates to the SOTU

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 19, 2015 - 3:28 PM

WASHINGTON -- From students to college presidents to business leaders, Minnesota members are bringing a diverse set of guests to tomorrow night's State of the Union address.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar will bring Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) President Peggy Kennedy.

Sen. Al Franken will bring University of Minnesota Student Body President Joelle Stangler

Rep. Tim Walz, D, First Congressional District will bring Army  Ranger Sgt. Thomas Block. He is a Minnesota native and was named Army Times Soldier of the Year for 2014.

Rep. John Kline, R, Second Congressional District -- Staffers did not respond to requests for comment on his guest.

Rep. Erik Paulsen, R, Third Congressional District will bring Minneapolis Police Sergeant Grant Snyder. He is a leader in the Minnesota law enforcement community in combating sex trafficking.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D, Fourth Congressional District will bring Matt Kramer, the president and CEO of the St Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D, Fifth Congressional District will bring Veronica Mendez, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha’s (CTUL) Co-Director.

Rep. Tom Emmer, R, Sixth Congressional District will bring Brenton Hayden, who was named "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" and started his own business at 20 years-old. He is from central Minnesota.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D, Seventh Congressional District gave his extra ticket to North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp so she could bring a couple from her state. The two were among the first responders to a school bus-train crash site last year and helped rescue kids.

Rep. Rick Nolan, D, Eighth Congressional District will bring Sophie Cerkvenik of Britt, Minnesota. Sophie is the daughter of a lobbyist and a senior at Virginia High School. 

Minneapolis mom to sit with First Lady during State of the Union

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 19, 2015 - 8:41 AM

WASHINGTON -- Among the invited guests to sit in the First Lady's box at Tuesday's State of the Union address is Minneapolis mother Rebekah Erler, who had lunch with the president last summer after writing an inspiring letter to him.

Erler will sit with other guests -- DREAMers, students, small business owners and a couple other letter writers -- and First Lady Michelle Obama tomorrow night at the U.S. Capitol to hear the president deliver the annual address to Congress.

Erler wrote a letter to Obama last year detailing run-of-the-mill middle class struggles of a 36-year-old mother of two.

Erler and her husband moved to Minneapolis from Seattle after the housing crash, because her husband was struggling to find work as a construction worker. In Minnesota, her husband found a job in the re-modeling industry. Erler took out student loans to attend community college and is now an accountant. The two recently bought their first home in St. Anthony. She told the president she felt lucky they were both working, but week to week costs -- from groceries to day care -- were still hard.

The letter resonated with the president, who reads roughly ten letters a night from Americans who write to him. He flew out to Minneapolis for two days last June, had lunch with Erler and delivered two speeches, one on the economy.

From the White House on Monday: "Rebekah’s story is representative of the experiences of millions of resilient Americans: While our economy has made a strong comeback, too many middle class Americans families with two hardworking parents are still stretched too thin. That’s why the President spent a day in Minnesota with Rebekah, and that’s why he’s chosen to lift up her story again."

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