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Juhnke taken aback by gov.'s Farmfest speech

GILFILLAN -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty's call to promote exports and reduce regulatory and tax costs for agriculture, and continue research into renewable fuel technology, won applause from his Farmfest audience, but it left at least one audience member scratching his head.

State Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, who is the chair of the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Division, said the governor sounded much like a Democratic legislator in the agenda he promoted.

"His words ring true, I agree with him,'' said Juhnke, "but his actions are different.''

Juhnke said the governor's action to cut local government aid is in direct conflict with his call to reduce taxes in rural areas: Small, rural communities have little choice but to raise property taxes in response to the loss, he said. The Willmar legislator said he was also surprised to hear the governor chide the Legislature for providing only $1 million toward a dairy technology incentive program that he suggested deserved more.

The governor asked only $500,000 in funding for the program in the budget he shot to Juhnke's ag committee, Juhnke said.

He also called the governor to task on funding and promotion for the state's renewable energy sector. Juhnke said the governor wanted to cut the budget for the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute by 50 percent. The Legislature resisted and kept AURI's budget cut to 7 percent, the same as other state agencies experienced.

"What he says and what his budget reflects are two different things,'' said Juhnke following the governor's address.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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