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Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowaler said the Legislature and the administration should use a projected surplus to build up the state's reserve accounts.

The Capitol Note: Forecast points to big surplus

MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter said the state should continue to replenish its reserve account. (Staff photo: Peter-Bartz Gallagher.)

MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter said the state should continue to replenish its reserve account. (Staff photo: Peter-Bartz Gallagher.)

1.) Minnesota looks destined to enter the 2014 legislative session with a significant budget surplus, which could give legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton a degree of breathing room not seen in years. The November forecast, released on Thursday, finds the state prepared to pay down about $261 million in borrowed budgeting funds — including the remaining $246 million in school shift debt — and still have $825 million left over at the end of the 2014-15 budget biennium. Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said he was pleased to see the shift debt finally paid down, and urged that the Legislature and the administration build up the state’s reserve accounts to avoid the need for stop-gap budgeting moves in the near future. Dayton said he would wait to see the February forecast before making any major decisions. But, if the current figure holds or increases, the governor said his top priorities would be the repeal of $231 million worth of business-to-business sales taxes, and a push to align Minnesota’s taxes with the federal code, which would cut another $205 million from the state’s tax collections; Dayton pitched the latter proposal as a major savings for the state’s middle-class families.

2.) Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, has been an outspoken critic of MNsure since its inception, but seems even less pleased about what the state insurance exchange might become some day soon. Yesterday, Davids sent a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton voicing his concerns about an upcoming vote by the MNsure Board of Directors to adopt “active purchaser” language as soon as next year. If accepted, that provision would give the state a greater role in deciding which insurance plans can be sold in the exchange. Proponents of active purchaser argue that it gives the state leverage to wield on behalf of consumers, while opponents say it cuts into market-based competition. Davids clearly falls into the latter category. In his letter to Dayton, David warns that approving active purchaser authority would grant “seven unelected, unaccountable board members the power to decide what constitutes a ‘meaningful choice’ for hardworking Minnesotans.” The board is scheduled to vote Dec. 18 on whether to advance with the active purchaser concept; if it decides to do so, its official language would be approved some time in early 2014.

3.) Blink and you’ll miss the next DFL candidate in House District 64B. St. Paul attorney Dave Pinto became the latest Democrat running for the seat soon to be vacated by Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul. Pinto works in the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor, and touts a long record of DFL activism on his campaign website. In a press release announcing his bid, Pinto positioned himself as a progressive, saying he would fight for a higher minimum wage and universal health care, among other causes. Pinto was also endorsed by former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer, who is scheduled to host a fundraiser for Pinto’s campaign in January. Pinto becomes the sixth Democrat officially running for that seat, which Paymar has held since 1996. So far, no Republican challengers have surfaced.


  • Senate staffer and Hopkins City Council member Cheryl Yoaukim is poised to run for the seat held by Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, should he go on to win the DFL nomination for Secretary of State. Yoaukim announced her candidacy for Simon’s House Distict 46B with a press release on Thursday. Yoaukim, an advocate for early childhood education and a veteran of DFL campaign work, is currently a committee administrator for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • Rep. Jerry Newton, DFL-Coon Rapids, has a Republican challenger for his House District 37A seat. Chris Stolarzyk logged his candidacy with the state earlier this week, and also launched a campaign website to lay out his qualifications and platform. Stolarzyk graduated earlier this year with a Master’s degree from George Washington University, and was previously an intern for California GOP Congressman Duncan Hunter.
  • Previous congressional also-ran David Gerson plans to mount another endorsement challenge against GOP U.S. Rep. John Kline, and will officially announce his candidacy with a Capitol press conference on Monday morning, the Star Tribune reports. Kline drubbed Gerson in a 2012 primary contest, with the lesser-known challenger picking up just 15 percent of the vote.
  • A fundraiser will be held for DFL U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan on Sunday evening in Minneapolis. The event at the downtown Graves Hotel will feature former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, as well as former Minnesota congressional candidate Jim Graves. Attendance is $15, and suggested donations range up to the $2,600 pre-primary maximum. RSVP to 612-801-1010.
  • Fresh Energy has added Shawntera Hardy to its government and public relations staff. Hardy joins the green energy group as the new head of its transportation and built environment program; she was previously a government relations manager at HealthPartners.

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