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Pawlenty goes after LGA

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty made some of his strongest statements yet against local government aid when he blasted Bemidji for raising its property tax levy.

On his weekly radio show, Pawlenty used that as an example of cities improperly blaming property tax increases on state aid cuts

The Republican governor, often attacked by Democrats for forcing up property taxes, called Bemidji "a government town in a lot of respects."

He said the city's tax levy rose $2.4 million in 2009, but state aid fell just $189.

Brain McClung, Pawlenty's deputy chief of staff, said state aid was designed to help cities lacking enough property to tax to provide adequate services.

"How did the program get so far away from its original intent?" McClung asked.

Pawlenty was critical of Bemidji's contract talks, as he has been with other governments and schools. "They gave away significant wage increases and benefit increases as well at a time when those in the private sector are not doing so well."

Cities have lobbied hard to maintain local government aid and other programs, saying that as the state cuts those payments local governments have no choice but to raise property taxes. City leaders say they have trimmed everything they can and in order to maintain adequate services, especially police and fire protection, they either need continued state support or to raise local taxes.

Pawlenty's comment could hint at more local cuts this year as he and legislators debate how to fix a badly out of balance state budget.

Debate grumbling

A Minnesota News Council-League of Women Voters debate with 20 governor candidates produced one point of agreement among most hopefuls: They did not like the format.

The sponsors allowed just one-minute answers to questions, and candidates such as Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook said that was not enough time to discuss any issues.

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner refused to answer some questions, especially ones that were supposed to be only "yes" or "no" answers, because of the tight time restrictions.

One of the campaign's most colorful candidates, and one not likely to win, produced some laughs. Minneapolis artist Ole Savior, who runs for some office every two years, promoted building a new Vikings football stadium, while most candidates said there should be no state money given to a stadium.

Savior wore a Viking's shirt, while most male candidates wore suits and ties.

Independence Party Candidate John T. Uldrich delivered a line no one disputed: "Everyone is going to get a new 'do out of this economy."

Molnau picks Emmer

Tom Emmer picked up support from one of the two statewide Republican office holders.

Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau gave her blessing to the Delano state representative's GOP governor campaign.

Molnau's boss, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has not endorsed a candidate.

Besides Molnau, Emmer announced he has backing from a former governor candidate challenger, Sen. Mike Jungbauer of East Bethel. He also announced several other supporters, including state Reps. Dean Urdahl of Grove City, Matt Dean of Dellwood and Steve Drazkowski of Wabasha.

Dayton opens up

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton tried to make amends to the Capitol press corps by meeting with reporters for 45 minutes, answering every question they had.

That came a week after Dayton announced he was running for the DFL governor nomination, a year after he began campaigning for office, and only took questions from two reporters.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.