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Janell Cole and Don Davis, Published January 12 2009

Conrad stimulus doubts reported

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., was all over the national news late last week when he expressed profound doubts about President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus ideas.

Among the reports was a transcript at the Federal News Service Web site.

It starts with Conrad saying, “I got a couple of people that requested, so whoever it is that requested – CBS and Fox – do they want to go ahead?”

A reporter starts with a generic question about what his concerns were on the stimulus package, and Conrad’s answer is similar to those expressed in other news reports, such as that he doubts a tax credit for businesses that hire people will really create jobs.

“For example, the automobile industry’s not going to hire more people, even if they get a jobs credit – a tax credit, if people aren’t buying cars,” he said. “So we think that the better use of the money is in investment, things that are going to be spent that are going to improve the economic efficiency of our society.”

Seeking school funds

Minnesota legislators face a historically large deficit, and most groups that normally would be at the Capitol with hat in hand say they realize their funding will be cut.

But a few groups feel that what they do is so important they need more state money despite a budget deficit that now stands at $4.85 billion and expected to grow.

Education Minnesota, the state teachers’ union, is one of those groups that continues to seek more money.

President Tom Dooher said the state needs to provide schools with “more resources,” political-speak for “more money.”

Dooher said many education supporters say schools need 4 to 6 percent more funding in the next two-year budget.

The Senate’s top education finance member did not expect Dooher’s request to be fulfilled.

“At this point, I don’t think so,” Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, said of the request.

The size of an increase some educators seek would cost $650 million, he said. “That has to be added to the $4.8 billion we are short already.”

Now that’s influential

An Allentown, Pa., newspaper, The Morning Call, reports local Lehigh Valley musicians will be playing at one of President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural balls thanks to the efforts of Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

Dorgan heard the James Gerard Orchestra, described as a contemporary dance band that plays weddings and other private parties, at a wedding on Cape Cod before the election, the newspaper reports.

Dorgan’s office said the wedding Dorgan attended was the nuptials for the daughter of Grand Forks businessman and City Councilman Hal Gershman.

Can’t count?

Minnesota’s unresolved Senate race was featured – well, mocked – by Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

“It’s January and how hard is it to count to 3 million?” host Jon Stewart joked. “You’re supposed to be one of the smart states.”

Guess they mean it

Most North Dakota legislative committees have a semi-serious warning posted in their meeting rooms saying anyone whose cell phone rings audibly during a bill hearing will be assessed a $5 penalty. Any money actually collected goes into the committees’ coffee fund.

Prairie Public Broadcasting’s news director, Dave Thompson, didn’t even make it to the end of the first week before he got dinged for a fiver in the House Natural Resources Committee.

Yes, he really paid it, he said. “I’m no piker.”

Matter of perspective

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, nominated Colleen Pacheco as an assistant Minnesota Senate secretary.

Langseth, one of the two most senior senators, said Pacheco has been with the Senate longer than any senator.

“The strange thing about it, she’s still a young woman,” Langseth said.

Davis and Cole work for Forum Communications Co, which owns “The Forum.

Davis can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com. Cole can be reached at (701) 224-0830 or forumcap@btinet.net