Minnesota news in brief at 7:58 p.m. CST

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

MNsure debuts new TV, radio advertising

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s health insurance exchange has started airing TV ads with testimonials from people who saved money buying coverage on MNsure.

A 30-second TV ad started airing statewide on Tuesday, with two more scheduled for the next few days along with several 60-second radio spots. It’s a more direct advertising approach for MNsure, after a series of humorous ads late last year that featured Minnesota folk icons Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

The ads are meant to encourage more Minnesota residents to buy coverage ahead of March 31, when MNsure’s open enrollment ends. After that, people without health insurance face tax penalties under the new federal health care law.

MNsure is spending $266,000 on the new TV ads, for a total of $933,000 spent on TV advertising between the Paul and Babe ads and the new ones. Lower-than-expected enrollment has raised budget concerns for the agency in 2015 and 2016, and interim CEO Scott Leitz previously said advertising budgets might have to be sacrificed. But MNsure spokesman John Schadl said the agency has been charged with carrying out the federal law and advertising is an effective way to do it.

TV advertising “is the most cost-effective way to reach a lot of people with your message,” Schadl said. “There are consequences if they don’t sign up by the end of March, and more importantly, we need to communicate to people there are options for better and more affordable health insurance.”

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Group wants $750M a year for Minn. roads, transit

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A large coalition of transportation, business and labor interests called Tuesday for a new 5 percent sales tax on fuel in Minnesota to help raise money for roads and transit projects.

The group, which calls itself Move MN, laid out a $750-million-a-year spending plan at a legislative hearing. It includes two major sources of revenue: $360 million annually for roads from the 5 percent sales tax on wholesale fuel, and another $335 million for transit projects from a three-quarter-cent sales tax increase in the seven counties that make up the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Move MN also seeks $16 million from a flexible federal account for bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and wants to dedicate the state’s sales tax on leased vehicles directly to road and transit funds for an additional $32 million a year. The group formed around the belief that if Minnesota wants to remain economically competitive, it needs a boost in transportation spending so it can reduce bottlenecks and repair battered infrastructure.

“Nearly half of Minnesota’s roads and bridges are in poor or mediocre condition and almost 2.5 million commuters drive across a structurally deficient bridge each day,” wrote Move MN in promotional materials distributed to lawmakers at a joint meeting of the House and Senate transportation committees. Move MN has nearly 200 member organizations, including the AFL-CIO, Small Business Minnesota, the League of Minnesota Cities, and Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The Legislature last raised the state’s gas tax in 2008, and Move MN members say the money raised no longer keeps up with the need caused by population growth. The 5 percent wholesale tax would be levied in addition to the existing 46.5-cents-a-gallon gas tax. Move MN said taking fuel at the wholesale level would mean more revenue would be generated as the price of fuel increases.

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Boys level Minn. man’s homemade ice castle

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