- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015
Team: Climber 1st to solo summit Mount McKinley in January

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A Minnesota adventurer has succeeded in becoming the first solo climber to reach the summit of Alaska’s Mount McKinley in the month of January, his support team said Monday, citing a GPS tracking device.

Lonnie Dupre, of Grand Marais, reached the 20,320-foot summit of North America’s tallest peak at 2:08 p.m. Alaska time Sunday, said project coordinator Stevie Plummer.

Dupre sent a text message saying “All OK, Doing Well,” through a SPOT GPS messenger device that showed it was sent from the same coordinates as McKinley’s summit.

Plummer then posted on the expedition website and on Dupre’s Facebook page a map generated by the SPOT system, which she said is “extremely accurate,” showing he had made it. She also said he sent a similar SPOT message about 3½ hours later showing he had successfully descended to his high camp at 17,200 feet.

“He spent 10 minutes on the summit, took some photos, then he realized exactly how high up he was and decided to head back down. I guess reality struck at that moment,” Plummer said while en route to Alaska to meet up with Dupre.


DFL senator’s new job may get an outside opinion

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Senate leaders pushed Monday for an outside look into whether a Democrat’s new job as the head of an Iron Range lobbying group conflicts with his role as a lawmaker.

Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, was hired last week as executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, an organization funded in part by public money that lobbies for those interests at the Capitol. His hiring, first reported by the Mesabi Daily News, immediately raised questions about whether the two roles would clash.

Senate Republicans called the two jobs a blatant conflict of interest, and raised the prospect of filing an ethics complaint against Tomassoni if he goes ahead with both jobs. Senate DFL leadership has urged Tomassoni to ask the state’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board for an advisory opinion.

No such request had been filed as of Monday afternoon, board Director Gary Goldsmith said.

Tomassoni said Monday his new job makes it no different than “a farmer voting on farm issues or a lawyer voting on court issues,” but he outlined several steps he’ll take to reduce concern.


Minnesota sees tax collections outpace projections again

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s coffers are $212 million fuller than state finance officials thought they’d be at this stage.

A budget update Monday by the Department of Minnesota Management and Budget documented tax collections that are outpacing projections. The report covers revenue through December.

The short-term snapshot feeds into expectations at the Capitol that a $1 billion projected surplus will swell. Individual income taxes accounted for the largest overage, coming in $166 million stronger than estimated earlier.

Lower gas prices have helped gin up other consumer spending, therefore raising sales tax revenue for the state.

This report looks only at tax patterns and doesn’t dive into state spending trends.


Senate Democrats seek $800M per year more for transportation

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A new fuel surcharge and higher vehicle registration fees are key components of a transportation plan unveiled Monday that Minnesota Senate Democrats say will produce at least $800 million more per year for highway, bridge and mass-transit construction.

The proposal is worlds apart from an initial House Republican plan that relies on existing tax dollars and it received a cool reception from Republicans, foreshadowing the tough fight ahead to strike a substantial deal this session.

Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee Chairman Scott Dibble, a Democrat, said Minnesota’s clogged and deteriorating roads are costing motorists in lost time, slowed commerce, damaged vehicles and safety problems. He said lawmakers have spent too long “admiring the problem,” which a task force has said amounts to a multibillion dollar project backlog over the next decade.

“A failure to act costs money,” he said. “It’s just whether you’re going to pay out of your back pocket or your front pocket by doing a proactive investment.”

The plan tacks a new 6.5 percent charge on gas purchases - on top of the existing 28.5 cent per gallon tax - and raises license tab fees by a minimum $5. For shoppers in the seven-county metropolitan area, they would see the general sales tax rise by ¾-percent to channel more money to transit.

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