Daily Digest: Dayton unloads on Pawlenty

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Good morning and look at that, it's Thursday already. Here's the Digest.

1. Dayton is no fan of Pawlenty. Gov. Mark Dayton harshly criticized his predecessor Tim Pawlenty on Wednesday, ripping Pawlenty’s political comeback bid at length and charging that Pawlenty’s time in office left Minnesota “in disastrous financial shape.” “I don’t know what he’s going to run on because his record as governor was so abysmal,” Dayton said in an interview with the Star Tribune. The DFLer is not running again this year after two terms. In response, Pawlenty’s campaign did not directly address Dayton’s criticisms. “Finger pointing is just another example of how divisive politics has become in Minnesota today,” said Sam Winter, Pawlenty’s campaign spokesman. “Tim Pawlenty has the experience and strength to bring people together and get important things done for the future of Minnesota.” After his initial round of criticism, Dayton for a moment seemed ready to let the matter drop. “I’ve got better things to do than to bat around with Tim Pawlenty,” he said. But then, he continued. “(Pawlenty) says he’s going to save Minnesota? From what? From 3.2 percent unemployment? From 290,000 more people working from than when I took office?” Dayton said. (Star Tribune)

2. Smith raises more than $1.8 million in three months. DFL U.S. Sen. Tina Smith’s campaign raised $1.84 million in the first quarter of 2018. The campaign received support from over 16,500 people and that 94 percent of the donations were $100 or less, according to a spokesman, but the campaign did not release other details. “Senator Smith is traveling to communities across the state and listening to Minnesotans tell their stories and share their ideas, and then she’s taking what she’s learned with her back to the U.S. Senate to fight for all Minnesotans,” said Alana Petersen, Smith's campaign manager. “We are building a strong grassroots campaign that is going door-to-door in communities across the state..." Dayton appointed Smith to the seat in January to replace Al Franken, who resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct. Smith is running this year for the chance to serve the remainder of Franken's term. State Sen. Karin Housley, who has emerged as the leading Republican challenger to Smith, has not yet released quarterly fundraising totals.

3.  Dayton, schools push for more pre-k funding. School officials say they may have to cut preschool classes if lawmakers do not extend state funds awarded last year. The $50 million sum approved at the end of last legislative session allowed 59 school districts and charter schools around the state to expand free preschool offerings. State officials estimated the funds will pay for 4,000 children per year to attend the classes. Gov. Dayton wants lawmakers to make the funds permanent this year using part of Minnesota's $329 million budget surplus. Dayton has also proposed increasing the funds by 5 percent per year. "It shouldn't be so hard to provide high-quality education to children who need it, will benefit from it and do better for the rest of their lives because of it," Dayton said at a recent press conference. (MPR News)

4. VW settlement money will buy replacements for dirty diesel engines. Non-compliant Volkswagens dirtied Minnesota's air so much that the state is getting $47 million to clean up old diesel engines, purchase electric buses and increase its network of electric charging stations. In a plan released Wednesday, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency officials said projects to replace dirty diesel engines will result in a reduction of 4,000 tons of nitrogen oxides or NOx, a pollutant that negatively impacts health. "We're removing the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of cars from the road by changing out these engines," MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine said. Volkswagens aren't the target for the funds being distributed to the states — the non-compliant vehicles are being handled separately. Instead, each state is getting funds to make up for the harm caused by the scandal. Stine said the 10-year plan to spend the funds is aimed at getting the biggest emissions reductions for the least amount of money. The settlement money will pay for a share of projects, with private businesses and other partners providing the rest. (MPR News)

5. Bill to set up task force on missing, murdered Native American women gains bipartisan support. Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, DFL-New Brighton, says it is unfathomable that while Native American women make up roughly one percent of Minnesota’s population, the percentage of them killed in domestic violence incidents is many times that. She's sponsoring a bill to create a task force to address Minnesota’s missing and murdered indigenous women. Liz Richards, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, admitted that data on the subject is difficult to confirm, given that race is often not registered in state crime data. But the data that is confirmable still paints a grim picture: Based on her organization’s review of the 81 domestic violence-related homicides reported to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension between 2013 and 2016, seven of the victims were confirmed to be Native American. That’s 9 percent of victims — and Richards stressed the percentage could have been higher. For many of the cases, the race of the victim was not determined. If the bill is passed, the task force would start in 2019 at an estimated cost of $79,000, and continue each year thereafter with an annual cost of $70,000. The bill mandates that in addition to including representatives from numerous law enforcement agencies, the task force must include at least four representatives from tribal governments. (Pioneer Press)