Political Notebook: Pawlenty on LGA, Dayton opens up

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.

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.

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 took questions from only two reporters.

While he made no big announcement at the second meeting, he did reveal something about the man making his eighth statewide run -- he has won five.


For instance, he told about recently calling a Duluth bingo game.

When he was done with the game, "I asked if I could call another game," Dayton said. "I got a resounding, 'No.'"

Nothing political, mind you, he was just reading the numbers too fast for the folks with a lot of cards to check. He convinced the senior citizens that he could slow down and called two more games.

Dayton also gave re-porters his home phone.

"There are only three of us there," Dayton deadpanned, and the two dogs don't answer the phone.

As if to prove he is open, Dayton gave away the secret about why he won the 2000 U.S. Senate race.

While Dayton and other Democrats were locked in a primary election battle, incumbent GOP Sen. Rod Grams did little campaigning, Dayton said, which meant the two candidates started on close to equal footing after primary vote.

The lesson for Republicans: Start campaigning right after the convention, and let Democrats beat up on each other in a fall primary election.


"I shouldn't be giving campaign advice," Dayton admitted.

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