Excerpts from recent minnesota editorials miami herald electricity in the 1920s


The report generated an immediate and necessary response at the state Capitol. The program’s yearly budget is a large sum, and the terrorism question, even if scant evidence backed it up, merits deeper scrutiny. But the waning 2018 session did not allow for time to fully explore the issue. Reasonable short-term fixes have been aired — among them, a proposal from Abeler that would lead to the creation of a new state agency concentrating on public assistance fraud. But lawmakers shouldn’t consider their work complete.

A Tuesday Senate committee meeting served as a caution against rushing to conclusions. The hastily called session featured a key Fox 9 source: a former state Department of Human Services digital investigator named Scott Stillman, who resigned in March. He reiterated concerns about terrorism and alleged that fraud in other assistance programs might be far worse.

But Stillman also set an odd condition for his testimony. He would not take questions from legislators, which Abeler, the committee chair, should not have agreed to. Stillman made serious allegations that cast a cloud over vital public programs that require ongoing legislative support. Due diligence requires assessing Stillman’s credibility, but legislators were not allowed to ask about a defamation lawsuit that led to his signing a statement last August declaring that he’d made false statements about other digital investigators.

Another question unasked: If Somali children make up 18.3 percent of kids served by CCAP, how is it that fraud linked to their community could reach $100 million a year? That’s far more than the total paid out for these kids’ care even if you assume that every single dollar provided was illegal.

Significant questions remain about the magnitude of CCAP fraud and the potential links to terror, with the latter meriting answers from the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office — not the retired Seattle police officer whom Fox 9 relied on. The Legislature has a trusted resource it can task with getting answers: the state’s Office of the Legislative Auditor. Thankfully, auditor Jim Nobles has stepped forward to wield his office’s independent expertise.

The state officials they elected are making critical final decisions (yes, inaction is a decision) on everything from eldercare policies to individual and corporate tax rates. Yet the public — and perhaps even many legislators — don’t have a firm grasp on many of those details.

But if the past 20 years are any indication, such measures — compiled into omnibus bills numbering in the hundreds, even thousands of pages, and modified behind closed doors by a handful of leaders — will be zipped through final floor presentations, voted on and sent either to the governor for possible approval or the trash bin.

The names of the key players change. The parties controlling the House, Senate and governor’s chair flip back and forth as well. The state’s fiscal outlook even varies — from a $6 billion hole under Pawlenty to repeated surpluses under Dayton.

— Adjust the state’s tax structure to better match federal changes. Regardless of whether you favor tweaks that help businesses or back adjustments for working families, the one outcome nobody should want is inaction. Tax experts have said since before the session opened in February that failure to adjust the state code to better match federal changes will put massive numbers of Minnesotans in confusing territory when it’s time to file taxes for 2018.

— Divvy up the state surplus of about $330 million to help only those school districts facing skyrocketing special education costs; bolster protections for at-risk seniors; improve assistance in battling the opioid crisis; and stabilize funding of state pensions.

— Adopt a bonding bill that adequately funds asset preservation requests for state facilities, particularly higher education. This board restates that point in reminding readers of how Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of the Minnesota State system, said last month that the system, while striving to give students a stellar educational experience, first needs to be able to keep those students "warm, safe and dry."

After all, it’s most voters who routinely accept how legislative sessions end. It’s most voters who don’t participate in parties’ candidate nominations and then complain about the choices. It’s most voters who abhor the status quo but send the exact same people back to St. Paul the next session.

But that Minnesota can do this does not mean it should do this. And the bizarrely giddy reaction from legalization advocate state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, gives an unintentional reason why: "This is going to be like Sunday liquor on cocaine."

But even next year, legislators considering legalization should be cognizant of the damage already done in Minnesota by widespread legalized gambling. Yes, people wager illegally on Vikings games now. But they have to work at it to do so. There isn’t a licensed bookmaker on every street corner.

And be under no illusion about the losing. The reality of legal gambling is that the games are set up for players to lose. The specific game doesn’t matter — slots in an Indian casino, a Powerball ticket at the gas station, parimutuel betting at Canterbury Parks, pulltabs at the corner bar. In the long run, the more you bet, the more you lose. Sports betting is no exception.

The lottery, it has been said, is a tax on people bad at math. Sports betting will be a tax on people who think they know more about sports than they do, and there are a lot of us. That’s bad public policy. Garafalo and some of his anti-progressive tax legislative colleagues may be eying a windfall of revenue, but that money will come at a price.