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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published January 11 2010

Political Notebook: Leaders seek nearly $1 billion in bonding

ST. PAUL - Minnesota’s legislative leaders have agreed to a public works funding bill nearing $1 billion.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants to limit it to something closer to $725 million, a difference that could prove to be an interesting topic at budget meetings of the governor and legislative leaders.

The House and Senate plan January meetings to begin laying out how that money would be spent. Final bills in both chambers could come together later this month, but more likely will be written soon after the 2010 legislative session begins on Feb. 4.

Pawlenty is to announce his public works proposals on Jan. 15.

The bill commonly is known as a bonding bill because the state sells bonds to finance projects, much like taking out a loan.

Peterson hosts confab

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who serves most of western Minnesota, plans a conference promoting locally grown foods.

The Democratic chairman of the House Agriculture Committee said the Feb. 15 and 16 conference called “The Home Grown Economy 2010 – Equipping You to Build Community Based Food Systems” will be at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. Video connections will be at the University of Minnesota Crookston, University of Minnesota Morris, Bemidji State University and Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls.

“Changing attitudes about food, its impact on health and well-being and growing opportunities for small farmers have sparked a movement across the country and in Minnesota of consumers seeking out locally grown foods,” Peterson said, “and I’m hosting this conference to help get the word out and link people to the available resources.”

Peterson has invited Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, to speak at the conference.

Carney running

An eighth Republican candidate will enter the race for governor today.

Rob Carney Jr. of Minneapolis, who says he is a “moderate progressive,” is a long-shot candidate who emphasizes his opposition to Pawlenty’s budget cut moves last summer, a process known as unallotment. He sued the Republican governor, claiming elimination of a state program providing tax refunds for people who donate to political candidates was illegal.

Rukavina likes numbers

State Rep. Tom Rukavina is happy that at least 1,133 people have donated to his campaign for Minnesota governor.

The Virginia Democrat says he has raised more than $135,000 in less than five months. He was especially happy that he nearly has the same number of donors as House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis.

“Hey, I’ve nearly matched her,” Rukavina said. “I’m not the powerful house Speaker or the powerful Tax Committee chair, but I’m a powerful little candidate with a refreshingly honest approach with people. That’s why I am going to win.”

Senate Tax Chairman Tom Bakk, a fellow Iron Ranger, also is running for governor, one of 10 Democrats in the race.

‘Ban the Bug’

Health officials say that because H1N1 flu vaccinations are available at most clinics, pharmacies and other locations, most Minnesotans should get vaccinated.

The Health Department and others launched a Ban the Bug campaign Sunday to encourage Minnesotans to be vaccinated.

“We’ve done what we can to vaccinate our children and those most vulnerable to H1N1,” the Health Department’s Kristen Ehresmann said. “Now it’s time for the rest of us to be vaccinated.”

Ehresmann said that it is not too late to get vaccinated. While influenza illnesses have declined in Minnesota, there is still sporadic activity; four states still have widespread flu activity, and 13 report regional activity.

Health officials recommend getting a separate vaccination for the seasonal flu. A vaccination for one provides no protection against the other.

Entenza gets $300,000

Matt Entenza’s campaign for Minnesota governor says its 2009 fundraising topped $300,000.

The campaign claims that just two governor candidates have reached that mark before: Ted Mondale in 1998 and Mike Hatch in 2006.

“To pass this historic threshold with nine opponents, in a rough economy, is a tremendous achievement,” said Entenza Campaign Manager Dana Houle. “We’re especially proud to have done this with no PAC (political action committee) money and just over 1 percent from lobbyists.”

The campaign said the $300,000 comes from more than 1,700 people.

Entenza, a Worthington native and former state legislator, is one of 10 Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor candidates.

Farmers meeting

The Minnesota Farmers Union plans a Jan. 25 listening session about rural issues.

The 10 a.m. meeting in Fertile’s Sandhill Supper Club will include issues such as energy issues, property taxes and estate taxes.

Emmer raises funds

GOP governor candidate Tom Emmer reports he raised more than $115,000 in 2009.

The state representative joined other candidates in announcing early how much they received. They do not have to reveal contributions until the end of the month.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com