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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published February 13 2011

Minnesota Political Notebook: Dayton blames budget woes on Pawlenty

ST. PAUL - Gov. Mark Dayton took on former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in his State of the State address.

It sounded a bit like last fall’s campaign when Democrats running for many offices appeared to be running against Pawlenty, who already was working toward becoming a presidential candidate and not seeking re-election.

The new Democrat governor brought an edge to the speech that has not been seen since he took office on Jan. 3. It appeared he blamed Republican Pawlenty for the state’s economic woes, even though most other states also face budget deficits.

“Our employment growth averaged in the bottom 10 among the 50 states during the past decade,” Dayton said. “Last December, there were over 77,000 more Minnesotans unemployed than in December 2002, just before Gov. Pawlenty took office. ... And it is worth noting that this decade of poor economic performance followed two consecutive cuts in the state income tax rates by Gov. (Jesse) Ventura and that Minnesota Legislature in 1999 and 2000.”

Of course, Pawlenty was House majority leader during Ventura’s term and helped cut taxes.

Tax cuts Pawlenty supported hurt education funding, Dayton said. And education funding is one of Dayton’s top priorities.

“We were left a horrendous fiscal mess, a decade of economic decline and state agencies poorly managed,” Dayton told legislators.

Pawlenty may not closely follow Minnesota politics these days, since he appears on the verge of announcing a White House run, but he was hit with questions about Dayton’s speech the next morning on the “Today” show.

His defense was familiar to those in the Capitol. Nearly every other state (he used to say except for North Dakota) is facing budget problems, too. He called it the “worst economic collapse since World War II.”

Limit school borrowing

Minnesota state budget woes have forced finance officials to borrow from school districts.

It does not happen often, but school districts say it hurts their ability to serve students.

So Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, has introduced a bill to ban the practice.

Pawlenty seeks support

Roll Call newspaper reports that U.S. Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen, both Minnesota Republicans, are seeking Capitol Hill support for former Gov. Tim Pawlenty as he prepares to run for president.

Reporter David M. Drucker writes: “Likely Republican presidential candidates Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney are quietly but aggressively wooing members of Congress for endorsements and political support in campaigns that have yet to officially take flight.”

“I’ve been trying to make connections and offer opportunities to my friend, Tim,” Paulsen said. “I really want to do whatever I can to help him. Part of that is introducing him to people.”

Pawlenty donated to several congressional campaigns last fall, which observers say was designed to attract backers to his campaign.

The ex-GOP governor has not said he will run, but he says he is leaning that way. Expect an announcement in March or April.

More than a breeze

A new report shows Minnesota produces the fourth most wind power.

Three more wind farms came on line late last year, helping boost Minnesota three spots on the American Wind Energy Association ranking.

The state’s first wind farm was completed in Crookston in 1987. Since then, the state has been among the top ones producing electricity by wind.

“Minnesota must maintain momentum in clean energy such as wind technology that will pay dividends in the future,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Wind energy helps create jobs and economic development for the state.”

Tuition freeze?

Students plan to rally against tuition increases on Wednesday, but state Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, already has introduced a bill placing a two-year freeze on state college and university tuitions.

The bill also would limit tuition increases going forward.

“With this bill, our Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and University of Minnesota systems will need to make true structural reform to push revenue to the classrooms and reduce administrative overhead,” Carlson said.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co. He can be

reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com