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Good budget news

THUMBS UP: The latest Minnesota state economic forecast, issued on Friday, showed the state expects to have a $1.2 billion budget surplus this biennium. That is good news in a state that had become used to hearing about billion-dollar deficits.

There are many ideas about what to do with the surplus, ranging from giving it all back to the taxpayers to paying cash instead of bonding for State Capitol repairs.

We’ve said before that fiscal responsibility should govern the state’s decisions. Yes, eliminate the onerous, anti-business sales tax increases passed last year. Yes, give raises to personal care aides who have been stuck with pay freezes and cuts the last few years. Yes, be sure the state’s cash reserves are at proper levels.

Then, return the surplus to taxpayers through rebates of some kind. But before taking an axe to tax rates, let’s be sure we wouldn’t be embarking on another ride on the pendulum back into budget deficits.

Fire dangers

THUMBS DOWN: We’re not sure what caused the rash of fires in New Ulm and the area Thursday night, but New Ulm firefighters had one of their most difficult times in quite a while.

At 9:30 p.m. they were called to a fire in an apartment house. Sadly, one woman they pulled from the burning building died of her injuries. Such tragedies always weigh heavily on those who are called to respond.

No sooner had firefighters returned to the fire hall than a garage fire a few blocks from the first fire called them out again.

Then, at 6:30 a.m. Friday morning firefighters were called to assist with a barn fire in rural Lafayette.

Our appreciation for the local fire department grew a lot last night.

Life on camera

THUMBS UP: A Ramsey County jury took 90 minutes Thursday to find a Little Canada man not guilty of disorderly conduct and interfering with an ambulance crew that he had been videotaping during an incident outside his apartment building.

Andrew Henderson’s camera was confiscated by a deputy after he disobeyed a deputy’s order to stop videotaping an ambulance crew as they worked to take away a drunken man. He had not been interfering with the crew, he says. His video could not corroborate his assertion – it was deleted by the time he finally got his camera back.

In America, people are expected to live more of their lives on camera. Security cameras watch us in stores, in parking lots, as we walk down streets. Cell phones with camera capabilities are everywhere. Law enforcement and other emergency crews should not expect to be immune from ubiquitous cameras, either, when they are doing their work in public.

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