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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published February 27 2011

Minnesota Political Notebook: Potential federal shutdown may attract attention

St. Paul - The country’s political attention lately has focused on Wisconsin and a battle over public unions.

Coming in a distant second is the potential that the federal government could shut down Friday. U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., said the attention will switch to Washington in the next few days as the Republican-controlled House tries to work with the Democratic Senate and White House to pass another stop-gap budget measure to keep the federal government functioning a few more weeks.

A new budget was supposed to be in place by last Oct. 1, but Congress could not agree on a full budget and instead has passed temporary spending measures to keep government open. The current temporary spending plan ends Friday.

Kline, who plans to seek re-election next year, said even as Congress looks at another temporary budget bill, work needs to begin to trim the country’s

$14 trillion debt and “pull back the runaway spending.”

While Kline said he does not think a shutdown is likely, he also could not explain how there will be a compromise between Republicans who want to cut spending now and Democrats who want to maintain current spending for now.

The coming days will be “a showdown,” Kline said.

Dayton learns

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton met with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, and came away with what he considered good advice.

“He was a very successful governor,” Dayton said of his southern neighbor.

Vilsack gave Dayton ideas about streamlining state government. Vilsack worked on government reform while at Iowa’s helm.

The ex-Iowa governor told Dayton he plans trips to Vietnam, South Korea and Indonesia to promote agricultural trade. Dayton hopes to visit China, perhaps in August, on his own trade mission and Vilsack offered to help.

Vilsack and Dayton also discussed rural economic development and broadband, “which is of great interest to me,” Dayton said.

Dayton is in Washington, D.C. for the National Governors’ Association meeting.

Morris student speaks

University of Minnesota Morris student Josh Preston told a Capitol rally that the higher education funding debate has gone beyond just money.

“We have reached a point in the history of our life as a university, and as a state, that when it comes to budgets we are no longer addressing issues of finance: We are addressing one of our values, priorities, morals,” he told hundreds of students in the Capitol rotunda.

Preston said that despite Morris’ good education and research reputation, it faces problems.

“As a community of students, faculty and staff, we have our share of concerns, concerns that include the fact that Morris professors make significantly less on average than those of the Twin Cities, less than even Crookston,” he said. “How are we able to, as a research facility, going to be able to continue leading the state forward when we can’t even pay our best thinkers the salaries they deserve?”

The Morris student also complained about “intellectually lazy, political bait-and-switch” tactic of imposing tuition caps that lawmakers favor because it helps then get re-elected.

Walnut quarantine

Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson has restricted the import of walnut trees and some related products from areas infested with thousand cankers disease.

A fungus carried by the walnut twig beetle causes the tree-killing disease in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington and Utah.

“This targeted quarantine will help prevent the loss of millions of trees and avoid damage to a valuable segment of our state’s forestry industry,” Frederickson said.


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