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Capitol Chatter: Critics make Franson more determined

ST. PAUL -- Death threats, demands to resign and other attacks to have only made state Rep. Mary Franson more determined to stay in office, she says.

A Democratic-Farmer-Laborite campaign official sent Internet links to a video clip of a recent Franson speech in Browerville in which she discusses a joke she told in March that led to statewide reaction.

In her March YouTube video, the Alexandria Republican said more food stamps are being distributed than ever while parks officials suggest that feeding animals makes them more dependent. The Welfare Rights Committee and others on the left criticized Franson for what they said was comparing welfare recipients to animals.

Franson repeated the story in Browerville, which drew laughter and applause.

"You guys laugh and you guys clap, but what I got from the inside of St. Paul was completely ugly," she said in a portion of the speech the DFL originally did not post on YouTube. "I don't want them to be poor. I want them to be able to better their lives."

Franson said that too many people depend on food stamps and other government payments and some would rather receive unemployment insurance than work.

Zach Rodvold, the DFL House campaign director, said in an email that Franson's district includes some of Minnesota's poorest people. "A recent study showed that 21 percent of children in Todd County, where part of her district is located, are living in poverty and that 13.5 percent receive food stamps."

Franson indicated it was not just Democrats who caused problems after her March comments.

"I did not get any support from my caucus," she said of fellow House Republicans. "I was left all alone."

No borrowing

Republicans who control the Minnesota Legislature are happy that it appears the state will not need to borrow money to pay bills.

That was a concern as recently as this spring.

"It was only 18 months ago that Minnesota faced a $6 billion deficit," Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said. "The Legislature took the responsible path and made the tough decisions that allow us to enjoy greater financial stability today."

Senjem said that credit goes beyond just Republicans, but said GOP policies played a large role.

State revenues are up 2.1 percent from what the experts expected in February. However, those same experts say not all of those revenues will continue and there are reasons to be slightly less optimistic for 2014-2015 than they were earlier this year.

Many observers say legislators will face a major deficit when they return to St. Paul in January to write a new two-year budget.

Registration deadline

Tuesday is the last day Minnesotans may register to vote before the Aug. 14 primary election.

However, voters may register at the polls on Election Day.

"Pre-registering is a very good idea, because it saves you time when you go vote on Aug. 14," Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.

State law requires Minnesotans to be registered at their current address before they are allowed to vote. Voters must re-register if they have not voted in the past four years.

Registration forms are available at or county government offices and public libraries.

Health spending slows

Minnesotans still are paying more for health care, but the rate of increase is slowing.

The state Health Department announced total health care spending rose 2.2 percent from 2009 to 2010, the slowest growth since 1997. Health spending was nearly $38 billion in 2010.

"This modest growth is encouraging, but we are anxious to see what happens in the future," Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said. "Because of the recession, people may have delayed seeking routine and acute care so we are concerned that these rates may increase in coming years as people address their deferred health care needs."

Exchange proceeds

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on federal health-care laws opened the door for Minnesota to proceed with plans to begin an on-line insurance marketplace.

Known as an insurance exchange, the Web presence is designed to be a place where Minnesotans can buy health insurance.

The state has entered into a $41 million contract with a private company to design the site, which would be running in October 2013. State officials say one in five Minnesotans is expected to use the site.

Federal law requires Washington to set up an exchange if a state does not.

AFL-CIO endorses

It was no surprise that almost all candidates endorsed by the Minnesota AFL-CIO, the state's largest labor federation, are Democrats.

However, there were a few omissions, including Democratic U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson, who serves western Minnesota, and Tim Walz, from the southern part of the state. All other Democratic U.S. House candidates won the union's backing.

The AFL-CIO also did not endorse for many state legislative seats and backed two suburban Twin Cities Republicans -- Reps. Jim Abeler of Anoka and Steve Smith of Mound.

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.