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Cities won't sue over unallotment

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty announces on the first day of Minnesota's new budget cycle just what he will cut from the budget.

There should be no surprises, only little changes from what he said he could trim a couple of weeks ago. But that official announcement on Wednesday opens the door for lawsuits from groups the cuts affect.

Don't count the League of Minnesota Cities among those who may take Pawlenty to court, even though cities take a bigger hit than most groups.

The league's new president, Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, said just before he took office Thursday that his group would not sue.

"The perception of spending public money" to sue the governor would not go over well, Brede said.

Many groups affected by the "unallotment" cuts are considering lawsuits, but there is no rush forward to announce court action.

An exception is Republican activist and Web site publisher Bob Carney Jr., who said he plans to sue Pawlenty over canceling a $10.7 million program that provides state refunds to people who make political contributions.

Democrats, especially, say the Republican governor's action to unilaterally cut the state budget is at least pushing the law. Some outright say it breaks the state law that was designed to let a governor make cuts when it becomes obvious not enough money is coming in to fund all the state's programs.

Pawlenty is making his third unallotment -- out of six in Minnesota history -- but this is the first time at the beginning of a budget. And it is 10 times larger than any previous unallotment.

The governor says the action is needed because lawmakers passed bills spending $2.7 billion more than is available in state revenues.

Free letters

A bill co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., would provide free mail from military personnel overseas to their family members back home.

The House passed the measure 389-22. It still needs Senate approval.

"The families of our service members, in a very tangible way, serve alongside their loved ones throughout their deployment," Paulsen said. "This bill is just one small, but important, way we can help them stay in touch with their loved ones when they are far away from home."

Fed money arrives

The Minnesota Commerce Department has nearly $22 million of federal money to spend on energy efficiency improvements for homes, businesses and government buildings.

It is one installment of a $54.1 million promise from the federal government.

"We are excited to be among the first states to have their plans approved, and we hope to get these projects moving as soon as possible," said Bill Glahn, director of the state Office of Energy Security. "We are ahead of the nation when it comes to benchmarking our public buildings for energy efficiency improvements, so we already know where to get the most bang for the buck."

South Dakota was the only other state in the region to get to get the first grants.