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Status Report: Tentative agreement; below projections; big spender

In a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Mark Dayton praised Lt. Gov. Tina Smith for her role in the negotiations between Allina Health and its nurses. (File photo)

In a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Mark Dayton praised Lt. Gov. Tina Smith for her role in the negotiations between Allina Health and its nurses. (File photo)

Tentative agreement: After 17 hours of negotiations at the Governor’s Residence, the Minnesota Nurses Association and Allina Health reached a tentative agreement early Tuesday to end a five-week nurses’ strike, Gov. Mark Dayton’s office announced Tuesday.

In its press release announcing the agreement, the Minnesota Nurses Association echoed Dayton’s office, saying that it resolves “all outstanding issues.”

However, in an Allina Health press release, also issued Tuesday, Allina used slightly different language. It said that negotiators had “reached alignment on a number of issues.”

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said she is not concerned about the small differences in public language.

“I think that must be just a matter of semantics,” she said. “What matters is that the two sides have signed a tentative agreement that the nurses are going to recommend unanimously and take to their members.”

According to Allina, the deal includes:

  • A phase-out of the “nurse-only insurance plans” at the center of the dispute, by the end of 2018. To mitigate the impact of transitioning away from these plans, Allina pledged to provide nurses with additional health reimbursement and health savings contributions.
  • Allina Health agreed to make no changes that would diminish the value of the Allina First insurance plan for all employees through the end of 2021.
  • A charge nurse assignment task force will be created to evaluate “the circumstances under which charge nurses take patient assignments.”

The opposing sides came together with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service at the request of Dayton and Smith. The Nurses Association must now ratify contract changes agreed to in the settlement. They are expected to vote Thursday.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday afternoon, Dayton praised Smith for her role in the negotiations.

“She and the two state and federal mediators were closely engaged with both sides during yesterday’s marathon session,” the post reads. “Her outstanding leadership was a major contributor to — depending upon ratification — a final resolution of this very painful dispute.”

Asked if there was ever any danger that negotiations, which she said lasted until 5 a.m. Tuesday, might fall apart, Smith answered obliquely.

“One of the things that I have learned from these really difficult negotiations is that each of them has its own rhythms and highs and lows,” she said. “You never know that you’ve gotten to a tentative agreement until you have gotten there.”

Below projections: Minnesota’s fiscal year is off to a rocky start as state government revenues slip below projections.

State budget officials announced Monday that tax collections were $97 million below their projections in the first three months of the fiscal year that began in July. That’s a 2.1 percent miss compared with the state’s budget.

According to Minnesota Management and Budget, receipts from all major tax types came in below forecasts for the quarter. In September, total net revenues were $24 million less than forecast, 1.2 percent off the mark.

Net individual income tax receipts were $29 million, or 1.1 percent less than projected for the first three months of the 2017 fiscal year, MMB said. Net sales tax receipts were $28 million below projections, a shortfall of 2.3 percent.

Likewise, lower-than-expected gross corporate tax payments brought in net receipts that fell $18 million, or 5.2 percent, below the February forecast, officials said.

Minnesota officials and legislative leaders have warned that the state’s economic outlook isn’t as rosy as the past several years of growth. On the bright side, though, the state left a big chunk of cash on its bottom line and has built up a hefty budget reserve.

The Legislature will be charged with passing a new, two-year budget when lawmakers return for the 2017 regular session in early January. The full October 2016 Revenue and Economic Update can be viewed online at mn.gov/mmb.

Big spender: A Washington, D.C.-based independent political group confirmed Tuesday that it is spending nearly half a million dollars in Minnesota to target three suburban legislative seats now held by Republicans.

The money is being used to buy cable TV and digital advertising that the group, Everytown for Gun Safety, says highlights candidates’ positions on gun-sale background checks.

“We are spending at least $400,000 on key House and Senate races,” said Lizzie Ulmer, deputy communications director for the group.

Targeted districts include House District 44A, House District 48B and Senate District 48. Lawmakers there refused to support a background-check requirement for all gun sales, Ulmer said.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, represents Senate District 48. Hann is in a tough election match against DFL challenger Steve Cwodzinski, a former teacher. Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, represents District 44A, where she is pitted against DFLer Ginny Klevorn, a Plymouth mediator. In House District 48B, the incumbent is Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie. She faces endorsed DFL candidate, Ben Sherlock, also of Eden Prairie.

In addition to the ad buys, the Everytown coalition said it will provide volunteers and field organizers through allied organizations like Moms Demand Action. Everytown favors what it calls “common-sense gun violence prevention policies” and says that it hopes to counterbalance the influence of politically powerful gun rights groups.

What’s Ahead: The Legislative Study Group on Educator Licensure, co-chaired by Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, and Sen. Charles Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Room 10 of the State Office Building. The group will continue its discussions of governance and tiered teacher licensure proposals.


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