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Budget plans full of blanks; Juhnke critical of the way Emmer handles campaign stops

ST. PAUL -- One of political reporters' great frustrations of any governor campaign, or any campaign for that matter, is a lack of details about what candidates would do if elected.

Political reporters think voters want to know how candidates would handle programs that affect them. In this year, with the state facing a nearly $6 billion budget deficit, reporters are bugging candidates about what programs would be cut and what taxes would be raised.

Candidates have produced the most complete budget proposals in memory, but each is full of blanks.

One day's news produced examples of that for the two leading candidates.

Democrat Mark Dayton has spent his campaign saying that he would raise taxes on Minnesota's richest citizens to plug the budget hole and expand education and other spending. He penciled in $4 billion for higher income and property taxes.

But Dayton's income tax plan, which he counted on for most of the money, would generate just $1.9 billion, the state Revenue Department told him. That is a big hole in his plan and his spokeswoman said the campaign will look for other ways to raise the money.

On the same day, Republican Tom Emmer released what he called the most complete budget proposal of any candidate. While his plan listed total amounts for general areas of the state budget, he said that he will wait (probably until he is in the governor's office) to fill in the blanks showing what specific programs within those general areas will be cut or increased.

Opponents are criticizing Independence Party candidate Tom Horner for not showing all of his cards. For instance, while he says he would expand the sales tax to clothing, he also says he would expand it to some services, but has not decided which ones.

With a dozen debates under their belts and maybe that many more to come, expect many more questions designed to fill in the budget blanks.

Pawlenty hires in Iowa

Gov. Tim Pawlenty is increasing his New Hampshire and Iowa presence.

The Republican's political action committee dispatched a half-dozen staffers to help New Hampshire Republicans before the recent primary election and now the Des Moines Register reports he had hired a full-time Iowa staff person. He is the first potential 2012 presidential candidate to have a staff member in the Hawkeye state.

Pawlenty, who has been in Iowa five times in a year, has not said whether he will run for president, delaying that announcement until after he leaves his Minnesota office early next year. But signs point to a run, especially increasing his activity in the first caucus and primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Register says Pawlenty plans to swing through western Iowa on Oct. 8 and 9.

Seifert left out

Tom Emmer has not asked the man he beat in the Republican governor contest to help out.

Marty Seifert, a state representative from Marshall who just got into the real estate business, stood on the podium last April, hand in hand with Emmer, and smiled at Republican convention delegates who just picked Emmer as their governor candidate. Seifert delivered a brief talk praising Emmer.

Seifert said he has not talked to Emmer since May and has not been asked to help the GOP contender's campaign.

Now, the Emmer campaign chief says he hopes to "utilize" Seifert, who could come in handy in rural Minnesota where he did much better than Emmer in the nomination contest.

In the meantime, Seifert has been returning to private life and has done little in politics. When he has been at a GOP event, he said, "I spoke nicely of him."

Ag education 'important'

One of the most important things rural Minnesotans can do to help themselves is to educate others about what they do, and why they do it, the leader of the state's Farm Bureau said.

Kevin Paap said too many Minnesotans are too far removed from the farm to know much about those issues.

"I think it is important that those of us involved in agriculture do everything we can to reach out and help those who aren't involved in agriculture understand who we are," Paap said. "We want to make sure everyone in Minnesota knows where their food comes from."

Paap made the comments while discussing farmers and politics, hinting that education is as important as working for a candidate.

'Dark of the night'

The Tom Emmer and Mark Dayton governor campaigns handle publicity differently, state Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said.

Juhnke told of Emmer, the Republican candidate, visiting Willmar and Litchfield. But all he did was attend fund-raisers.

"He never stopped at the newspaper, never called the radio news director," the state representative and political junkie said. "No inkling he was in town at all."

Dayton, a Democrat, makes such news media contacts every time he visits a town, Juhnke added. "Emmer comes in the dark of night."

Emmer Campaign Manager Cullen Sheehan said his candidate will spend a lot of time in rural areas such as those Juhnke mentioned, but scheduling often limits how much can be done on any specific trip.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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.