Mankato teen seriously injured in boating accident

A 15-year-old Mankato teen is in the hospital after getting hit by a boat Friday evening in Jefferson Lake in LeSeur County in the southeastern part of the state.

The Mankato Free Press reports that Marah Elizabeth Bengston lost her balance while wakeboarding behind her father’s boat. The teen reportedly fell in to the water. While she was floating, she was hit by a second boat that was operated by a 20-year-old driver.

KTOE reports the teen was airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester. Bengston reportedly suffered serious leg and arm injuries, the Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Office tells the St. Peter Herald.

Authorities continue to investigate the incident.

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Xcel Energy customers face rate hike of up to 2 percent this fall

If you’re one of Xcel Energy’s 1.2 million customers – you’ll be paying a little extra for your electricity starting this fall.

The energy provider has been given the green light by Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission to hike rates by between 1.5 and 2 percent, MPR reports, the second year of increases after a 4.6 percent hike last year.

Xcel said that the increase will cover the cost of investments in high voltage distribution lines and renewable energy projects, the news station notes.

And the Star Tribune reports that Xcel is likely to follow up the fall hike by filing for another “multiyear” rate increase next year to recoup more from its investment in plants, transmission lines and its distribution network.

John Coffman, attorney for AARP Minnesota, which had intervened on behalf of older Minnesotans to fight against the latest rate hike, told the newspaper the increase approved by the PUC represented…

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Dayton backs down on dispute with GOP, clears way for budget deal

Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday he’s backing down over a major sticking point he has with Republican lawmakers over the role of the state auditor’s office, so work can be completed on a state budget by the June 30 deadline.

According to WCCO, Dayton reluctantly dropped his objections to a new law that would allow individual counties to hire private consultants, rather than the state auditor’s office, to conduct financial audits.

“I’m not going to put at risk any further the people with 9,400 jobs who are at risk,” Dayton said.

The governor said earlier he wouldn’t sign off on a special session – aimed at resolving the budget stalemate – without a promise from lawmakers that they repeal the provision and restore the state auditor’s duties. But GOP leaders refused to go along with the request.

If there’s no budget agreement by July 1, Minnesota will go into

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Session deadline bearing down as lawmakers look for compromises

There’s one week left in the 2015 legislative session and lawmakers are beginning their last week in regular session with no deal on a number of key issues.

Legislative leaders including House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk met Sunday afternoon and evening with two of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s commissioners, as well as Legislative Auditor James Nobles for private budget talks.

The Pioneer Press reported that lawmakers are divided along party lines about how much to spend on education, transportation, health care and taxes. The Star Tribune reported that legislators are facing a “volatile mix peppered with dozens of…disputes large and small between the DFL and GOP.”

MPR News reports that funding health care remains a major stumbling block, with  House Republicans and Senate DFL’ers…

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As financial stress mounts, impact of bird flu spreads beyond farms

The financial fallout from the fast-moving avian influenza striking Minnesota poultry farms is spreading as fast as the virus itself.

The Mankato Free Press reported trouble from the disease is “radiating out to businesses that serve the industry,” including trucking firms. J&R Schugel in New Ulm, one of the biggest trucking firms in the state, said business related to the poultry industry began falling at the first of the month.

Schugel has 600 trucks and delivers liquid and whole eggs and frozen and fresh poultry. The company’s vice president Clay Merches estimated the poultry-related business was down about 80 percent. He said the company’s drivers are sitting idle longer; he couldn’t predict how long the slowdown might last.

“The providers are saying they’re doing everything they can to improve the situation,” he told the newspaper. “We have a lot of great relationships with these customers and they’ve really been impacted.”

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Still no deal at Capitol: Will transportation, tax cut plans have to wait ’til next year?

Sports fans whose teams are struggling sometimes try to salvage some hope with the cry “Wait ’til next year.”

With negotiators striking out on key pieces of a budget agreement for Minnesota, one legislative leader is suggesting lawmakers wait until next year to settle some of the state’s business.

With next Monday’s deadline for adjournment drawing near, DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says transportation and tax cut plans could be left to the 2016 session, MPR News reports.

Bakk has been involved in end-of-session negotiations with Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and staff members of Gov. Mark Dayton in hopes of bridging the big gaps in their proposals for Minnesota’s new two-year budget.

The state Constitution requires lawmakers to end the session on May 18. Another day of negotiations behind closed doors ended Monday with no agreement to announce.

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Price tag of state Capitol restoration project grows to $307 million

The cost of restoring the state Capitol has gone up by $34 million after the committee overseeing the restoration of the building approved projects that were not part of the original $272.2 million plan.

The bipartisan Capitol Preservation Commission approved the new cost of the project Wednesday, which also included unforeseen engineering problems with the plan, the Star Tribune reports.

The project will now cost about $307 million.

The committee – which includes Gov. Mark Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, among others – approved increasing the renovation budget to include several additional projects, according to the Pioneer Press.

Among them, reports note:

  • $2.4 million for modifications to Aurora Avenue to turn it into a plaza.
  • $739,000 for additional decorative paintings.
  • $400,000 to re-open the South Loggia – a long-closed balcony that overlooks the Capitol mall.
  • $100,000 for a bus loading plan on Cedar Street South.

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