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 - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has launched a new campaign. It is not for re-election, or even for the vice presidency, something many think may be in his future. This one is against Democratic legislators. The Republican governor's campaign committee is buying radio spots complaining about Democratic-Farmer-Laborite tax increase proposals. "When you finish a diet program, you don't celebrate by going to the all-you-can-eat buffet," a soft female voice says to open the commercial. "When you finally pay off your credit cards, you don't go on a spending spree.
ST. PAUL - The pre-season, if you will, is about over for Minnesota legislators. When they return to work Tuesday, after more than a week off for Easter and Passover, the final preliminary work begins to wrap up. Then the real job starts in about three weeks. Lawmakers can expect what has been an easy session to change as hard decisions must be made in coming weeks: -- Is a 9.8 percent increase in the state budget, as Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes, enough? Or should it rise 18.7 percent, as Senate Republicans figure Senate Democrats want? -- Should income taxes rise?
The state would provide transportation to any Minnesota World War II veteran who wants to attend a June 9 war memorial dedication if Rep. Tim Faust, DFL-Mora, gets his way. A provision in a larger bill due soon in the full House provides funding for the transportation plan. The World War II memorial is being built in front of the state Capitol. "World War II veterans answered their country's call like no other generation," Faust said.
ST. PAUL - Border cities would fall under the same laws as other Minnesota communities, a House committee decided Monday when debating a statewide smoking ban. Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, wanted smoking allowed in border cities' bars and private clubs, but it was defeated on a close voice vote.
ST. PAUL - One of the country's most quoted political scientists labels U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Gov.
U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar says he is worried that airline maintenance and inspection standards are slipping. The Minnesota Democrat said airlines hiring other companies to conduct maintenance could be hurting safety. In a recent House hearing, Oberstar told Federal Aviation Administration officials about his concern. "You lose contact with the reality that this is an aircraft, not a piece of paper, not a document popping up on a computer screen," Oberstar said. "I am much more comfortable with hands-on than I am with fingers on the keyboard and pop-up screens."
ST. PAUL - Minnesota Democratic senators knew in February they would suggest raising taxes to fund their top priorities, but first talked about it publicly last week and on Saturday passed a nearly $1 billion income tax increase. The tax increase was kept under wraps to direct attention toward education needs, the Senate's education finance chairman said. "There is a hesitancy on keeping the center of focus on taxes rather than investment," Sen.
ST. PAUL - It was just last Monday when the Minnesota Senate approved an education funding bill, but now Senate Democrats want to add another $444 million. That education funding bump and property tax relief require a $900 million income tax increase, Senate leaders say. Democratic-Farmer-Laborite senators Thursday released a plan to spend $444 million more than a $794 million raise the full Senate approved on Monday.
ST. PAUL - A Senate tax bill Minnesota senators may consider Friday would stop Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Job Opportunity Building Zone program, his top rural economic priority. JOBZ would accept no new businesses after May 1 under the bill introduced Wednesday.
ST. PAUL - Income tax increases topping $500 million appear likely to pass the Minnesota Senate by week's end. Democratic-Farmer-Laborite senators want to bump up education funding anywhere between $500 million and $1 billion, and income taxes look like their chosen way to fund the bigger budgets. Decisions could be made today about just how to raise taxes, with the Senate Taxes Committee chairman suggesting they restore personal income taxes to 2001 levels. Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he and others made a mistake cutting taxes in 2001.