Today on the MPR News Update: The impact of looming sequestration on Minnesota's economy, the outlook for taxes in light of a lowered state deficit projection, a deadline for tribal members in a federal settlement, and reaction to a Republican's surprising shift on same-sex marriage.
UNCERTAINTY: All of the good state budget news has a cloud hovering over it, in the form of automatic federal budget cuts, known as sequestering. Those cuts take effect at midnight, and threaten relatively few jobs in Minnesota, but political uncertainty continues to be a damper on growth.
NO WORD ON TAXES: State officials announced that the projected Minnesota budget deficit has shrunk to $627 million, down from the November estimate of $1.1 billion. On that news, Republicans urged Democrats to abandon their proposals to increase taxes and spending. But Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, wasn't ready to back off any of his earlier plans.
JOBS OUTLOOK BRIGHTENS: Minnesota job vacancies rose to their highest level for a fourth quarter in seven years. Survey results released by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development Thursday showed employers reported 58,860 vacancies from October through December, up 18 percent from same period the year before.
PARSING SEQUESTER: Minnesota's members of Congress are mostly back here and not in Washington trying to undo the $85 billion dollars in cuts that members of both parties describe as harmful. We caught up with a few of them for their comments on how the country got into this miss, and what comes next.
TRIBAL SETTLEMENT DEADLINE: Today marks the deadline for American Indians who wish to take part in a multibillion dollar settlement with the federal government. The deadline marks a halfway point in paying out $3.4 billion to tribes over the federal government's poor management of money and land owned by tribes.
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE SURPRISE: When Republican state Sen. Branden Petersen of Andover bucked his party and stepped forward to co-sponsor a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, he took some of his constituents by surprise. Members of our Public Insight Network from all sides of the debate sounded off on his position.
GUN BILL: Rep. Michael Paymar unveiled the Gun Violence Prevention Act on Thursday. The proposal includes background checks for most gun sales and more tools for prosecutors and law enforcement officers to help them keep guns out of the hands of people who are legally prohibited from having them. It does not include a ban on assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines.
STATE OF THE U: University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said he is continuing to streamline the institution and that the university is in the "midst of a perfect storm around higher education," during his annual State of the University address Thursday.
DETOUR: A veto by a taconite mining company has taken a popular plan to reroute a major northern Minnesota highway off the table. Highway 53, which in Minnesota runs from Duluth to International Falls through the Iron Range, travels alongside United Taconite's open pit iron ore mine in Eveleth.
KRAMARCZUCK'S BEARD: Kramarczuk's, a landmark Eastern European deli and restaurant in northeast Minneapolis, has won a James Beard American Classic Award. The award is given to regional establishments, often family-owned, that are "treasured for their quality food, local character, and lasting appeal," according to the Beard Foundation.
MORE ABOARD: A new report from the Washington-based Brookings Institution finds Amtrak ridership at an all-time high in the Twin Cities and other metro areas across the country. The report looked at ridership levels for the national railroad in the largest 100 metro areas between 1997 to 2012 and shows ridership in the metro has grown by about 20 percent.
FLU DEATHS: Flu-related deaths in Minnesota continue to climb, even as the outbreak tapers off. The Minnesota Department of Health confirmed 17 additional deaths in its latest flu report released Thursday. That brings the total number of flu-related deaths in Minnesota to 165 since the start of this influenza season.
SPILLED MILK: The Minnesota State Patrol has released dashcam video from the squad car of Sgt. Scott Wahl showing the crash of a milk truck in the Lowry Tunnel on Interstate 94 on Wednesday. The Trooper just happened to be traveling near the rear of the truck when the accident happened.
YOUR FEBRUARY PHOTOS: We've posted a gallery of our favorite February photos, submitted to us through our website and shared in our Flickr pool. Check them out here, then opt in to our Flickr pool so we can include your photos in our next Minnesota Scenes at the end of this month.