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Status Report: Hats in ring, maximum levies, mental health

Hats in ring: Two prominent Democrats — one a current and one a former legislator — have thrown their hats into the ring for two 2018 constitutional office elections. In one case, the toss is provisional.

Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said Thursday that she will run for governor. Murphy has served as both majority leader and deputy minority leader in the Minnesota House.

One day earlier, former Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, announced that he has registered a campaign committee to run for Minnesota attorney general.

Winkler has been living abroad but plans to transition back to Minnesota full time. He said he would run only if Attorney General Lori Swanson, also a DFLer, runs for higher office. Swanson is rumored to be considering a run for governor in a DFL field that also might include Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and State Auditor Rebecca Otto.

In his written statement, Winkler sounded fairly definitive about his intentions. “The powerful and privileged have all the resources they need in our justice system,” Winkler said. “As attorney general, I will be an advocate dedicated solely to the people of Minnesota.”

In her statement, Murphy outlined why she will seek the DFL nomination for governor. “Too many of our neighbors are feeling forgotten, working harder than ever just to survive,” she wrote. “Too many are at risk of falling further behind, and too many are not getting the opportunities they need to make progress. It hurts all of us.”

Republicans and their allied political groups pounced on Murphy’s announcement, digging up her old Twitter posts that celebrate the passage of Minnesota’s health insurance exchange and tying her to next year’s double-digit premium increases.

Both Murphy and Winkler have unveiled campaign websites. Murphy’s is online at www.MurphyforMN.com. Winkler’s is www.ryanwinkler.com.

Maximum levies: The Minnesota Department of Revenue Thursday released a list of the preliminary maximum property tax levies reported by local governments or passed in local school referendums on Nov. 8.

For 2017, the department reported, preliminary property tax levies statewide will increase $344.3 million, or 3.8 percent. Last year, preliminary statewide property levies increased $433.1 million, but the final increase was $397 million, or 4.5 percent. Final property tax levies may be set lower, but not higher, than preliminary levies.

The Revenue Department broke down the totals for 2017’s maximum levies as follows:

  • For cities, a total statewide levy of approximately $2.26 billion, compared with $2.13 billion in 2016—a 6.2 percent increase.
  • For counties, a total statewide levy of approximately $3.03 billion, compared with $2.91 billion in 2016—a 4.2 percent increase.
  • For townships, a total statewide levy of about $248 million, compared with $243 million in 2016—a 2 percent increase.
  • For schools, a total statewide levy of roughly $2.716 billion, compared with $2.643 billion in 2016—a 2.8 percent increase.
  • For special taxing districts, a total statewide levy of approximately $364 million, compared with $352 million in 2016—a 3.6 percent increase.

Counties use the preliminary levies to compute parcel-specific property tax estimates for 2017. Those get mailed to property owners in November in the form of Truth-in-Taxation notices, which also list Truth-in-Taxation meeting times and locations.

After input from citizens, local governments must set their final 2017 property tax levies by Dec. 28, 2016. The department will release final property tax levy information in February.

Mental health: The Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health Thursday delivered its final recommendations to Gov. Mark Dayton for creating a comprehensive statewide mental health system.

More than 200,000 adults and 75,000 Minnesota children in live with mental illness, according to the governor’s office. Gaps in Minnesota’s mental health system can lead to inappropriate and expensive care, such as hospitalization or jail time, the governor’s office said.

The task force, which wrote up its proposals after a series of statewide meetings between July and November, offered nine recommendations:

  • Creating a comprehensive mental health continuum of care.
  • Redesigning governance of Minnesota’s mental health system.
  • Using a cultural lens to reduce mental health disparities.
  • Developing the mental health workforce.
  • Achieving parity.
  • Promoting mental health and preventing mental illness.
  • Achieving housing stability for the mentally ill.
  • Implementing short-term improvements to acute care capacity.
  • Implementing short-term solutions to improve crisis response.

The full final report is online at http://mn.gov/dhs/mental-health-tf/report/.

What’s ahead: The Legislative Commission on Surrogacy, co-chaired by Sen. Alice Johnson, DFL-Blaine, and Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, will meet Nov. 22, at 10 a.m. A meeting room had yet to be determined at press time. The panel will discuss its possible final recommendations to the Legislature on gestational surrogacy policy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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