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Capitol Chatter: Minnesota called well run by news company

An Internet business news company says Minnesota is the second best-run state in the country, trailing only North Dakota.

The news operation, 24/7 Wall St., basis its decision on state finances, as well as social and economic indicators.

"In addition to direct government policy, numerous factors outside of a government's control can affect a state's poverty level," the news site reported. "Still, economic and social prosperity among a state's population is a good sign the state is being run relatively well. Minnesota is one such state. The state's poverty rate of 10.2 percent is tied for third lowest in the country, and the median household income of $63,488 annually is 12th highest of all states. Also, due in part to Gov. Mark Dayton's decision to expand Medicaid in 2013, just 4.5 percent of Minnesotans do not have health insurance, the fourth lowest uninsured rate and less than half the national rate of 9.4 percent."

Trailing North Dakota and Minnesota are Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Iowa, Texas, Colorado, Washington and Oregon.

The bottom 10 are New Mexico, Illinois, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Cities lobby Dayton

Greater Minnesota city leaders urge Dayton to insist that any special legislative session include tax and public works bills.

"The time is ripe for a special session," said Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. "Something needs to be done quickly about health insurance, and a special session would provide an opportunity to also take action on the tax and bonding bills that failed to pass last session."

The issue that is spurring special session talk is dealing with sky-rocketing individual health insurance policy rates. But Dayton and legislative leaders say that if lawmakers return to St. Paul for a special Dec. 20 session, they also could approve a tax bill and a nearly $1 billion public works and transportation funding measure.

The tax bill would include $20 million of additional Local Government Aid, state money given to cities. The public works bill, funded by the state selling bonds, would provide construction projects cities need, Carlson said.

Buy American plan dropped

A provision to require American-made iron and steel in major American water projects is set to expire next year.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said the provision was to be permanent, but the sunset was included in a new water bill.

Letting the provision die could affect Minnesota's Iron Range, which produces taconite that is turned into steel.

"I pushed hard to make 'buy America' a permanent fixture of our water infrastructure, which is why I'm really disappointed that congressional negotiators failed to truly extend this important provision," Franken said. "American iron and steel workers deserve long-term certainty and support and I'm going to keep fighting to give it to them."

Also going on...

-- Contract talks between the state and a personal health care attendant union have been suspended by a state agency while attendants decide if they want to disband the union.

-- Minnesotans affected by September flooding who have state taxes due before Jan. 31, 2017, can delay payments until Jan. 31. Taxpayers who get the extension live in Anoka, Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Hennepin, Houston, Le Sueur, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Rice, Scott, Sibley, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Washington and Winona counties.

-- Congressmen from both parties have asked president-elect Donald Trump to continue normalizing American relations with Cuba. Among those signing a letter to Trump are U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., and Betty McCollum, D-Minn. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also has urged Trump to keep thawing Cuban relations.

-- Thursday is the deadline to buy individual health insurance policies for Jan. 1 coverage. Insurance to those who do not have employer or government coverage is available from private insurance agencies and the Mnsure state-operated insurance sales site.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.