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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published May 01 2011

Minnesota Legislative Notebook: Legislature enters home stretch without answers

ST. PAUL - The most-heard comment around the Minnesota Capitol these days is: “I don’t see how we get there.”

Those words are uttered frequently by legislators, administration officials, lobbyists, reporters and others who frequent the halls of power. The phrase quite simply means that Republicans in control of the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton are so far apart, there appears no way they will agree on how to write a two-year budget while filling a $5 billion deficit.

As is often reported, Dayton’s budget relies in a large part on raising taxes on well-off Minnesotans while Republican refuse to consider any state tax increases.

Dayton indicates he is willing to negotiate, but there is little hint on where he might give. Republican leaders say they will negotiate how to spend money, but will not spend more than $34 billion, significantly less than Dayton wants.

And even though he says he will negotiate, Dayton also warned Republicans the other day: “I didn’t get here by blinking.”

The state Constitution requires the Legislature to adjourn May 23. If the budget is not settled by then, Dayton could call a special session. If no budget is approved by July 1, the state could face a government shutdown.

Coleman to lobby

Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman has become a Washington lobbyist.

Coleman, who also was St. Paul mayor, joined Hogan Lovells as senior government adviser. He runs a think tank.

“Sen. Coleman’s career, spanning decades of service in the Minnesota attorney general’s office, then as the chief executive of one of the state’s largest cities and later as a U.S. senator, has given him invaluable insights from all angles of the practice and crafting of law that affect businesses and governments alike,” said Warren Gorrell, co-CEO of Hogan Lovells. “He maintains close ties with former congressional colleagues as well as foreign dignitaries, businessmen and ambassadors.”

Pawlenty trails

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty continues to struggle to attract attention in his presidential campaign.

The latest poll, conducted by Rasmussen Reports, gives Pawlenty 5 percent support among Republicans. Better-known potential candidates such as Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are in the mid-teens, while Donald Trump pulled in 19 percent support.

Gambling debate

A Republican dispute illustrates the legislative gambling debate and how it divides the party.

Newly elected national GOP Committeewoman Pat Anderson, who represents Minnesota on the Republican National Committee, lobbies for allowing horse-racing tracks to add slot machines. But the state Republican platform opposes expanded gambling, prompting Deputy Party Chairman Michael Brodkorb to say Anderson should resign for breaking from the platform.

Anderson is far from the only Republican favoring some new gambling.

House Whip Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, is a major racino supporter. Jobs Committee Chairman Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, is main author of the racino bill. And the list goes on.

Rookie Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, used a tweet to put the dispute in perspective: “I won money at the casino tonight. Maybe I should resign because that is against the party platform.”

Strange bedfellows

Potential Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann share the bill during a May 17 Minnesota Family Council dinner.

The conservative organization gives former U.S. House Speaker Gingrich top billing, calling U.S. Rep. Bachmann of Minnesota a “special guest.”

Bachmann is a Tea Party favorite and Time magazine recently named her one of the country’s 100 most influential people.

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