Minnesota News Roundup: Debate continues on how legislators will spend on education
ST. PAUL -- Full state funding for all-day, every day kindergarten...more money for pre-K programs...and a four-percent increase in state money for K-12 schools over the next two years -- those are key features of House Democrats' education bill being debated in committee this morning at the State Capitol.
Dilworth Democrat-Farm Laborer Paul Marquart, who chairs the Education Finance Committee, says the goal is to "put kids on the path to the world's best work force." Marquart calls it "a promise and a commitment to the future of this state." Republican leaders say they like Democrats' goal, but don't agree with their plan to pay for it with tax increases. Belle Plaine Republican Kelby Woodard says the state will still see a billion dollars in new revenue without any tax increases whatsoever.
DFL leaders of the Minnesota House say their health and human services budget bill protects the most vulnerable Minnesotans, despite $150 million dollars in cuts included in the package being debated this morning in committee. House Democratic Majority Leader Erin Murphy says people getting care in nursing homes and in community-based programs will not lose services, and care workers will also receive a little bit of a cost-of-living wage increase. But Gayle Kvenvold with Aging Services of Minnesota says that increase is "simply insufficient" after four years of cuts and freezes. And Apple Valley Representative Tara Mack, lead Republican on the committee, says Democrats want to raise over two billion dollars in new taxes while cutting $150 million from health and human services.
An American Eagle pilot has been charged with attempting to operate an aircraft while under the influence of alcohol, after being arrested in January at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. 48-year-old Kolbjorn Kristiansen was stopped by airport police after employees smelled alcohol on his breath. He was about board his aircraft and was arrested before he could take off for LaGuardia Airport in New York. A preliminary breath test showed his alcohol level at .107, and a later test showed a blood alcohol level of 0.09. The limit for commercial airline pilots in Minnesota is .04. Hennepin County prosecutors charged Kristiansen with three separate charges related to attempting to fly under the influence of alcohol.
Students and fans are buying up Saint Cloud State hockey gear as the men's team prepares for the NCAA Frozen Four. Husky Bookstore customer service manager Linda Cooper says the SCSU campus is buzzing with spirit. This is the first time in the school's history a team has made it to college hockey's premier event. Cooper says she has never seen merchandise sell so quickly in all her time working at the bookstore. St.Cloud State plays Quinnipiac tomorrow night in the semifinals in Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. The game will be brodacast on ESPN2.
Minnesota has a lot at stake in the high-risk game of posturing by North Korea's leader. Richard Bohr, director of Asian Studies at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, says South Korea is one of Minnesota's biggest trading partners -- plus the state has a number of Korean Minnesotans. Bohr says Minnesota has had a close connection with South Korea ever since the Korean war ended in 1953. He says it's estimated that one-third of the leaders in various sectors of South Korea are graduates of the University of Minnesota.
The city of Maynard in southwestern Minnesota has declared a state of emergency and is asking the legislature for funding to help repair the city's sewer lines and wastewater treatment facility. Easter Sunday a sewer main collapsed, blocking sewage from flowing. Crews were able to temporarily bypass the collapsed main and restore service temporarily. State Representative Andrew Falk says the emergency illustrates the folly of not spending money to maintain infrastructure. Four years ago, Maynard city leaders requested three-million dollars to upgrade their sewer infrastructure but the funding was denied.
The U.S. Postal Service is putting a stop on its plan to cut Saturday mail delivery--because Congress is prohibiting the move. The Postal Service announced in February it was going to end Saturday mail delivery as a cost-cutting measure, but Congress has passed a bill that doesn't allow it. The Postal Service's Board of Governors says it now has no choice but to delay implementation of the five-day delivery plan.
A Wisconsin woman suffered only minor injuries when her car collided with a moving train Tuesday near Winona. The State Patrol reports 24-year-old Gina Wilson of West Salem lost control on Highway 61, launched off a cement culvert and then rolled down to the railroad tracks and hit the train. Wilson was taken to Winona for treatment. The accident report says she was wearing a seat belt. Her car was totaled in the crash.
The state Senate Tax Committee has given thumbs-up to a bill that would allow Minnesota farmers to continue to pay agricultural homestead taxes if they moved off the farm and into a home better-protected from flood damage, rather than pay the higher non-owner-occupied rate. The original bill passed in 2010 with a sunset of this year, and DFL Senator Leroy Stumpf's bill was intended to make it permanent, but the committee extended the measure only through 2017.
Members of Minnesota's congressional delegation gather this afternoon in Washington for Senator Al Franken's third annual "Hotdish Off." Franken started the competition in 2011 as a way to put partisanship aside and celebrate a Minnesota culinary tradition. Each member will provide a hotdish or casserole which will be judged by former Congressmen Vin Weber and Gerry Sikorski. Last year, Franken's "Mom's Mahnomen Madness Hotdish" and former Representative Chip Cravaack's "Minnesota Wild Strata Hotdish" tied for first place.