Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty suggests increasing Minnesota's two-year budget 9.3 percent, to $34.5 billion, while cutting local property taxes. As always, education gets the biggest dollar amount of his budget proposal, but veterans and military programs would see the biggest percentage increase, topping 50 percent. Health and human services programs would increase nearly 16 percent in one of the other biggest spending areas. The governor already had announced most proposals he included in the budget that he released this morning.
Some issues in Gov. Tim Pawlenty's $34.4 billion, two-year budget: Property taxes Much-discussed property tax cuts would consume $150 million of the budget. Of that, $10 million would go to increasing Local Government Aid, a state payment to cities, mostly rural and Minneapolis and St. Paul. Another $47 million would be used to give tax credits to homeowners across the state, with $40 million more going to schools. Pawlenty also would limit how much property taxes could rise in cities that get more than a third of their budgets from the state.
Some items from Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed $34.4 billion, two-year budget: -- While the total budget would be $55 billion, the state only has control over $34.4 billion. Much of the rest is federal money that just passes through the state budget. -- Only "emergency" and projects policymakers already have accepted would be included in a bonding proposal -- a measure for borrowing money for construction and similar uses.
ST. PAUL - It's a win-win-wind situation for Minnesota, renewable energy supporters say about a new legislative push that appears to be on the fast track. Four versions of a legislative proposal to increase use of renewable energy sources, such as wind, feature relatively minor differences this year after a half-dozen years of controversy. The biggest change is Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, has offered a bill similar to those of two Northland senators and one pushed by one of the most liberal senators. "The stars are aligned," Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St.
ST. PAUL - Rural and inner city communities would be hurt if Gov. Tim Pawlenty's property tax freeze plan is enacted, rural lawmakers say. "Why should you always kick the dog at the bottom?" asked Sen. Keith Langseth following Pawlenty's fifth State of the State address Wednesday. Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, and other rural lawmakers did not like the Republican governor's proposal to cap property taxes levied by local governments. The dispute is a continuation of one that has gone on for years.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota high schools would need to perform better under a set of reforms Gov. Tim Pawlenty unveiled Wednesday during his fifth State of the State address. "We're not just going to pay for good intentions anymore," Pawlenty told a packed House chamber. "We're going to pay for better performance as part of a new 'Successful Schools' initiative." The governor proposed increasing school funding by 2 percent each of the next two years, with the possibility of doubling it if a school earns at least three out of a possible five stars on the state school report card.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty sat in a golden chair, wanting to talk. He didn't bother with the power position his predecessor used by sitting behind a desk. The setting was open, much like the governor himself, with nothing between him and the interviewer. What a difference between former-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and Pawlenty. While Ventura took time to chat with reporters, he seldom seemed interested. Ventura did not have in-depth knowledge about any issue. He could not answer anything deeper than a superficial question.