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Pay freeze discussion possible, if ...: Two-state governor?

ST. PAUL -- A top state union official leaves the door open for Minnesota officials and union members to negotiate a pay freeze.

Eliot Seide, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5, said the 43,000 union members he represents feel the existing contract should not be renegotiated. He did not rule out a freeze in the next contract, with negotiations starting within months.

However, he said, there would be at least one requirement in negotiations when they start in the spring: If Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes a pay freeze, he must guarantee there would be no layoffs.

Pawlenty said he wants government officials at all levels to freeze pay. He has been especially critical of local governments who complain about state aid cuts and at the same time give themselves pay raises.

Two in Minnesota's congressional delegation are seeking pay freezes for their jobs -- Democratic U.S. Reps. Tim Walz of southern Minnesota and Collin Peterson, who serves the western part of the state.

"I have been on both sides of this issue," Peterson said. "Given what is going on, I think we should freeze next year's pay raise. I think that is what is going to happen."

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Democrat who represents northeast and east-central Minnesota, does not hide the fact that he is not GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty's biggest fan.

When Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, testified in front of Oberstar's House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee the congressman was impressed that Doyle appeared to have his state ready to accept federal economic stimulus money at a time when he doubted that Pawlenty was ready.

Oberstar was so impressed that he leaned over and in a mock whisper said: "Would you like to be governor of Wisconsin AND Minnesota?"

Ironically, Doyle and Pawlenty are close, despite being of different parties, and recently announced plans to figure out ways the two states can save money by working together.