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The Capitol Note: Disagreement looms over surplus plans

Mike Mullen//February 14, 2014

The Capitol Note: Disagreement looms over surplus plans

Mike Mullen//February 14, 2014

Sen. Richard Cohen, the lead DFLer on the Finance Committee, wants $1 billion in the reserve account. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)
Sen. Richard Cohen, the lead DFLer on the Finance Committee, wants $1 billion in the reserve account. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

1.) How to handle the projected budget surplus is among the issues most likely to divide elected Democrats in the coming months, and the various sides of the debate have already begun making their case. Rep. Ron Erhardt, DFL-Edina, has already pre-filed a bill that would set $2 billion as the prescribed target for the state’s budget reserves; that figure is closely in line with the amount that Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) Commissioner Jim Schowalter has in mind, but about twice the amount currently held in cash flow ($350 million) and budget reserve ($650 million) accounts.

For his part, Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, plans to introduce a bill that would set the budget reserve account target at $1 billion, telling Minnesota Public Radio that amount would represent “strong fiscal balance.” Senate Minority Leader David Hann disagreed with both notions, arguing that the state’s projected $825 million surplus should be rerouted to Minnesotans with tax breaks rather than “trying to build a huge reserve fund that may or may not be needed.”

2.) If Steve Simon was not already the presumptive DFL nominee to succeed Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Simon’s 2013 fundraising total should make clear that he is well out in front of Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center. The Hopkins-area legislator raised $137,000 last year, and brought $112,000 in cash on hand into this year, according to campaign finance reports that also document Simon’s employment of three campaign staffers. Hilstrom raised $39,000, $9,000 of which came in the form of a self-loan, and had about $20,000 in cash to start this year. Dennis Nguyen, so far the lone GOP candidate running for that office, raised about $30,000, two-thirds of which came from a loan the investment executive gave to his own campaign. Nguyen told Politics in Minnesota he focused on endorsements and connecting with party leaders first, in an attempt to ensure that no other prominent GOP candidates would jump into the endorsement contest. Nguyen says he’s now entered the fundraising phase of his campaign, and expects to raise about $100,000 over the next two months.

3.) A pair of developments announced yesterday bode well for two Republican U.S. Senate candidates. Former business executive Mike McFadden will look to build on his enormous fundraising advantage over the rest of the GOP field with a fundraiser featuring 16 current and former senators, the Star Tribune reports. The event was organized by Norm Coleman and Rudy Boschwitz, both of whom have endorsed McFadden, and current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to be on hand. The March 5 fundraiser will be held at the National Republican Senatorial Committee office in Washington, D.C. Also on Thursday, U.S. Senate candidate Chris Dahlberg introduced Hubbard Broadcasting chairman and well-heeled Republican donor Stanley Hubbard as his campaign finance chairman. Dahlberg’s campaign also hired Erik Leist, a Republican political operative, to join the media team.


  • Former Republican legislative candidate Breanna Bly is thinking about another bid for office, telling the Rochester Post-Bulletin that she is weighing a second shot at Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester. Bly, a former Rochester School Board member, ran in 2012 but lost by a significant margin to Liebling, who won re-election with 59 percent of the district vote.
  • Minnesota elections director Gary Poser of the Secretary of State’s Office was sworn in as the incoming president of the National Association of State Election Directors, a position which comes with a one-year term. Poser will be that organization’s chief respondent to federal legislation proposals.
  • MN Adult & Teen Challenge, an addiction counseling service organization, has retained a pair of lobbyists from the Faegre Baker Daniels firm. Tom Freeman and Nancy Hylden become that group’s first two lobbyists on record.
  • House Speaker Paul Thissen will be the featured speaker at a Minnesota Council for Agri-Growth policy luncheon on March 25. The event will be held at the Kelly Inn in St. Paul, and comes with a $25 cost for members and $30 for non-members. More information here.
  • Lobbyist Cory Bennett terminated his registration to advocate for the Minnesota Biodiesel Council, dropping that advocacy group’s number of lobbyists on retainer to four.

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