News Day 2/17/09: Never-ending recount / Zombie banks / Battered by spouse? Get out of town / More …

Never-ending recount The judges ruled Friday on which sets of absentee ballots would be considered (not counted, just considered for counting), and Coleman’s lawyers struck back Monday, asking them to reverse their ruling, reports Jay Weiner in MinnPost. Weiner sees the move as preparation for an appeal after the judges’ “final” decision on who won … and there’s still no word on when that decision will come. Trial, and posturing, continue today.

Zombie banks “A zombie bank drains bailout capital but doesn’t respond with any meaningful lending,” reports MPR’s Chris Arnold. When the government props up a zombie bank, it’s not lending but it won’t die. Andy Kessler, a former hedge fund manager, says zombie banks “eat the fabric of the economy,” and warns: “I’ve watched every single one of those zombie movies and everybody knows you can’t cure zombie-ism … you gotta shoot ’em, you gotta get rid of ’em, cut their heads off, put the silver bullet through their hearts–and get some healthy banks.” As Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner proposes a complicated package of private investments and public loans to buy toxic assets from banks, the zombie bank explanation sounds a timely warning. Arnold and his guests discuss solutions such as wiping out the zombie banks, and then creating new healthy banks with taxpayers as the shareholders or taking over troubled home loans and giving them to smaller community banks to restructure.

Get on the bus and get out of town Finally find a way to escape that abusive spouse and get your children to safety? Now Twin Cities victims may be given tickets to ride the old grey dog to Bemidj, Brainerd, or Albert Lea, because metro-area shelters are out of room, reports Joy Powell in the Strib. With little affordable housing, shelters and safe houses have seen average stays go from 20 days in 2005 to 37 days in 2008, and there’s just no more room in either shelters or public housing. The recession has brought more violence at home. The statewide domestic abuse crisis line has seen calls rise from an average of 500 a month in 2006 to 900 a month now. Many victims remain in dangerous situations because there is just nowhere to go.

MN Job Watch The stimulus package will increase unemployment benefits by $25 per month, across the board, as well as extending the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) through December. A federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program extended benefits by 13 weeks in July, and by an additional 20 weeks in November. The 20-week extension was due to expire in March, but will now run through December.

The MN Green Jobs Task Force wants a new Green Enterprise Authority to coordinate state agency efforts to attract new green-collar jobs, reports Tim Pugmire on MPR. The task force also wants tax incentives and bonding for renewable energy projects.

Stimulus and MN deficit MN Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson said that MN will get up to $2.8 billion to bolster the state’s general fund, paykng for health care, education and state stabilization aid, reports Tim Pugmire for MPR. The money may make up some of the increase in the state budget deficit, which is expected to grow from the current $4.8 billion to as much as $7 billion when the next state economic forecast comes out on March 3. The federal money comes with strings attached. T-Paw will have to restore proposed cuts in health care programs and might have to give up an accounting shift for education funds.

But that still leaves most of the MN budget carnage in place. Sheila Regan writes in the TC Daily Planet about the impact of the T-Paw proposal to basically dismantle the Perpich arts high school and arts education center.

Could be worse? Kansas is suspending income tax refunds, reports AP, and may miss this Friday’s payroll for 42,000 state employees, as the legislature and governor fight over the state deficit. And in California, reports BBC, Gov. Arnie Schwarzenegger ordered layoff notices for 20,000 state workers after CA legislators failed to approve a $40 billion budget. This on top of two-day-a-month unpaid furloughs already in place for state workers and delayed tax refunds for everybody.

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