Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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ST. PAUL — Minnesotans who like neat hair may not like it, but the state blessed with strong winds is saving money by using it to create more electricity every year. The American Wind Energy Association announced Wednesday, April 19 that more than 15 percent of the state's electricity comes from wind power. That figure is predicted to double by 2021. Minnesota's largest electric utility, Xcel Energy, produces 19 percent of its power by wind, expected to increase to 34 percent in five years.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota's Democratic governor admitted he probably will accept a Republican transportation funding plan he does not like, rural lawmakers said they heard loud and clear during a holiday break that farmers want buffer law changes and ralliers chanted support for the House Democratic leader's comments critical of white men who did not listen to women of color. Tuesday, April 18, was the first day of the 2017 Minnesota Legislature's home stretch, with a goal of reaching agreement on a $46 billion, two-year budget before a May 22 adjournment date.
ST. PAUL—Minnesotans have time to lobby state leaders about wildly varying tax cuts proposals. State senators on Monday, April 3, approved 40-27 cutting taxes $900 million, following last week's House 80-52 vote in favor of a $1.35 billion cut. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's $300 million plan comes in below the tax cuts promoted by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The $1 billion difference could be in negotiations until near the constitutional May 22 legislative adjournment date.
ST. PAUL — Maybe the third time is a charm. That is the hope of Minnesotans who are tired of dodging potholes and daily fighting other road and transit woes. The state House and Senate have approved Republican-written transportation funding bills that greatly vary from what Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton wants. But despite having passed their legislation, it is more of a beginning. "We have to start somewhere," House Transportation Chairman Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said Friday, March 31.
ST. PAUL—Environmental legislation going through the Minnesota Legislature could face trouble if it reaches Gov. Mark Dayton. The Democratic governor has said he strongly opposes a change in his signature environmental policy, requiring vegetative buffers around the state's waters. Bills by the Republican House and Senate would change and delay the 2-year-old law, along with making other environment-related changes the governor may not like. "I'll veto any bill that has any gutting or delay in the buffers," Dayton has said.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota legislators are debating how to best help the state economy with ideas ranging from aiding an industry expand to building out the high-speed internet system. For Senate Republicans, much of the help comes in the form of private-public partnerships. For instance, their jobs plan would provide tax breaks, infrastructure improvement money and a $4 million loan to Thief River Falls' Digi-Key.
ST. PAUL—U.S. Rep. Tim Walz says he is running for governor, giving Democrats a candidate from greater Minnesota, where Republicans dominated in 2016. Walz made his announcement in a Monday morning, March 27, interview with the Post-Bulletin of Rochester. "I think now more than ever people are just wanting (government) to work," Walz said. "They are not looking for the partisanship. They are not looking for me to have all the answers, but they are certainly looking for me to bring people together to find those solutions that we all know are there."
ST. PAUL—There is no debate about a need to infuse money into Minnesota transportation projects, but plenty of division among the major players in how to get that money. Little has changed in the past three years. Republicans in control of the state House and Senate have updated their plans of the past two years to take money now going to other state programs to boost spending on roads and bridges, and borrowing other funds. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton still wants to raise the gasoline tax for roads and bridges and a Twin Cities sales tax for transit.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says he was not playing politics when he did not pass on a North Dakota request for law enforcement officers to help at a pipeline dispute.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota lawmakers plan to figure out their state budget plans in the next two weeks. With that deadline in mind, House Republicans announced Monday, March 20, they want to cut taxes $1.35 billion in the next two years. Later in the day, Senate Republicans said they want to spend $3.6 billion for transportation over 10 years. The bottom line is that the state taxpayer-funded budget likely will be around $46 billion for the two years beginning July 1, but details need to be decided by the constitutional legislative adjournment date in two months.