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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published August 18 2012

Davis: Obama touts advances in wind power

ST. PAUL – Wind was a major topic on President Barack Obama’s campaign swing through Iowa, and not by chance the White House released a report showing wind power use is growing.

The report shows Minnesota produces the third-most wind power, one of six states that meet at least 10 percent of their energy needs with wind. In Minnesota, that figure is 15 percent.

Minnesota wind provides enough electricity to power nearly 680,000 homes. The Obama administration report also showed up to 3,000 Minnesotans work in wind power.

Obama, speaking in Iowa, said he wants to continue a tax break wind providers receive.

“We are at a moment right now where home-grown energy, like wind energy, is growing,” Democrat Obama told his Oskaloosa audience.

The president complained that Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who at the time was at a coal mine, wants to eliminate a tax credit for wind power producers.

“All he has to do is pay attention to what you have been doing right here in Iowa,” Obama said of the state that produces 20 percent of its electricity by wind.

“Let’s keep investing in the new home-grown energy,” he added.

A Romney spokesman said the Republican candidate is a “strong supporter” of wind power and thinks encouraging economic growth by removing regulatory barriers would help more than a tax break.

The Des Moines Register has reported that Romney would prefer to allow the tax credit to end because that would “create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits.”

While in heavily agricultural Iowa, Obama talked more about general taxes, the deficit and the economy than wind power and other rural topics.

Rejection expected

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said he expects Republican legislators to reject a state worker contract his administration negotiated.

“The political grandstanding from the top row of the bleachers will almost require that,” he said.

Republicans say raises in the contract are too large. The contract would give 2 percent raises, but require workers to pay more for health insurance.

Dayton said most Republicans voted for more generous contracts during GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s tenure.

Low turnout

Minnesota’s lowest voter turnout in six decades, 9 percent in Tuesday’s primary election, does not mean the Nov. 6 general election turnout also will be low.

Even before the election, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said he expected a low primary turnout, but a normal nation-leading general election number.

There were no statewide races to grab voters’ attention Tuesday.

Dayton said he thinks a primary in the first Tuesday of June would be better because that is before most Minnesotans begin summer trips. Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, tweeted he also supports that move.

Minnesota’s primary election used to be in September, but that left too little time to get general election ballots to the military and other overseas voters. The past two statewide primaries have been in August.

A June primary would “maximize voter participation,” Dayton said.

However, many lawmakers oppose the move because it comes so soon after the legislative session, usually in May, because they have too little time to campaign and raise money.

That beeping machine

Reporters housed in the Capitol basement endure nearly constant noise and vibrations as construction workers build a light rail line on the north side of the building, so one asked Dayton if the work bothered him.

He described one day when he heard constant beeping from a construction machine, like what occurs when equipment backs up.

“How can someone back up the whole day?” he asked.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications