MINNESOTA POLITICS: Strange tax bedfellows ... Pawlenty first ... Kline vs. Obama. moreThe most significant federal tax bill in years passed Congress, and produced strange political bedfellows.
By: Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau/Associated Press
Tax bill makes strange alliances
ST. PAUL — The most significant federal tax bill in years passed Congress, and produced strange political bedfellows.
Who would have imagined that conservative tea party star U.S. Rep. Michele Bachman would side with liberals Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum against a tax measure? It may have been just a little less of a surprise that conservative John Kline and liberal Jim Oberstar sided.
Minnesota’s senators, both Democrats, voted for the bill keeping the Bush-era tax cuts in place, although they held their noses while doing so. The House delegation split, and definitely not along party lines.
Voting for the compromise between Republicans and President Barack Obama were Republicans Kline and Erik Paulsen as well as Democrats Tim Walz, Collin Peterson and Oberstar.
The House approved the bill 277-148 after senators voted 81-19 in favor of it.
One of the problems Bachmann saw in the bill was reinstatement of the estate tax, which many call a “death tax” because survivors must pay.
Bachmann tweeted: “I voted against restoring the death tax, increasing deficit and blowing a bigger hole in the Social Security trust fund.”
“A lot of people are unhappy that the president punted on first down, and I’m one of them,” Sen. Al Franken wrote to supporters, adding that the vote was the hardest he has taken.
“Extending the Bush tax breaks for the super-wealthy will explode our deficit over the next two years without doing anything to help our economy.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty appears to be nearing an announcement that he will run for president, but he badly trails other better-known potential GOP candidates in the polls.
But he is first in something.
Craig Robinson, founder and editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, reports his first Christmas card from a potential 2012 presidential candidate came from Pawlenty.
The governor plans Iowa stops on his book tour next month. Iowa, of course, holds the first presidential caucuses.
Pawlenty’s book, “Courage to Stand: An American Story,” goes on sale Jan. 11. He plans a book tour and by spring is due to announce his presidential decision.
The hardcover of his book is on pre-sale at Amazon.com for $17.18, with an audiobook for $19,79.
Kline vs. Obama
Bloomberg News reports that incoming U.S. House Education Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., “is considering measures to block an Obama administration plan to tighten for-profit colleges’ access to student aid.”
Kline, who serves the southern Twin Cities and areas to the south, will be Minnesota’s highest-ranking congressman when the House convenes next month.
Bloomberg said the U.S. Education Department proposes limiting profit-making colleges’ federal student aid more than that received by public colleges. Kline said that he would rather see colleges disclose graduation rates and other information.
“At the very least, you need to push this thing back,” Kline said of the proposal.
At issue is whether for-profit schools are improperly recruiting students and misusing government funds. Kline said that gaining information would be better than punishment.
Longtime Minnesota Senate attorney Peter Wattson will be Mark Dayton’s general counsel when he becomes governor Jan. 3.
Wattson is nationally known as a redistricting expert, something that will come in handy next year as legislators and Dayton redraw legislative and congressional district lines.
“His experience will serve our state well, as we address its significant fiscal challenges,” Dayton said. “Mr. Wattson has worked for the Senate Finance Committee since 1975 and has extensive experience drafting appropriations and bonding bills.”
Wattson began his Senate work in 1971.
The Washington-based news operation Politico reports that Minneapolis and Cleveland are “all but out of the running” for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
The choice apparently has been narrowed to St. Louis and Charlotte, N.C.
“The party seems to be leaning against Minneapolis largely because Republicans held their 2008 convention in St. Paul,” reporter Molly Ball writes.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said he still does not know how much the governor’s race recount cost.
Because Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer finished within half a percent of each other, the state will pick up the tab for local and state expenses.
While machine counts on Election Night are pretty accurate, Ritchie said, a hand count is even better because a machine cannot look at each ballot and determine voters’ intentions.
“This is a 152-year-old process,” Ritchie said. “It makes you proud to be a Minnesotan.”
Republicans beg to differ. Their leaders accuse Ritchie of botching the election, and they promise further investigations.
In the meantime, even Ritchie said election laws can be tweaked. For instance, he is in favor of lowering the automatic recount threshold to a quarter of a percent.
Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.
Two University of Minnesota professors recommend several steps with their future political polling to avoid a repeat of a poll in Minnesota governor’s race that came under criticism.
The final pre-election poll by Minnesota Public Radio and the university’s Humphrey Institute gave Democrat Mark Dayton a 12-point lead over Republican Tom Emmer. But Dayton ended up winning with less than half of 1 percentage point.
Professors Lawrence Jacobs and Joanne Miller said in an internal review that the last pre-election poll should be taken closer to the election, include the results of other polls, ask participants questions that build a rapport before asking about candidate preference, weight better by geographic region and include cell phone users.
The review stresses that all political polls are a “snapshot in time” and not intended to predict the results of an election.
Gov.-elect Mark Dayton is officially certified as the winner of the Minnesota governor’s race, more than six weeks after the election.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie signed Dayton’s election certificate this past week near the Capitol.
The certificate comes after no election lawsuits were filed during a weeklong waiting period after the state canvassing board certified election results showing the Democrat winning the governor’s race by 8,770 votes.
Republican Tom Emmer conceded Dec. 8 after a recount raised Dayton’s margin to 9,080 votes.
Dayton will be inaugurated Jan. 3.
Cravaack on mining
Republican Rep.-elect Chip Cravaack said this past week he will push to open two new precious metals mines in northeastern Minnesota as he prepares to take office after unseating 18-term Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar.
Speaking to Republican donors in Minneapolis, Cravaack outlined his strategy for staying in office past 2012: frequent appearances in the 8th District and support for the proposed mines near Hoyt Lakes and Ely. The incoming member of Congress said his first meeting after the election was with Polymet Mining Corp. CEO Joe Scipioni.
Polymet aims to mine deposits of copper, nickel and other precious metals using the former LTV Steel Mining Co. plant near Hoyt Lakes. Another precious metals mine is in the works near Ely under a joint venture between Chilean mining company Antofagasta and Duluth Metals Ltd. Both still need to clear environmental hurdles.
“This is an unbelievable asset that we have, but government has been in the way for us to tap those resources, and that is my No. 1 goal in the 8th District,” Cravaack said.
As the first Republican sent to Congress from northeastern Minnesota in more than 60 years, Cravaack said he expects to be a top Democratic target in 2012
The former pilot and military veteran also said he is unhappy Oberstar’s staff has shredded unresolved constituent cases that could have been passed on to him with the constituents’ consent. Oberstar’s spokesman has said the shredding is for privacy reasons.
DFL Party leader
A Democratic strategist who ran Gov.-elect Mark Dayton’s recount operation said he wants to lead the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
Ken Martin announced his candidacy for party chairman this past week, saying he wants to steer the DFL as Republicans take over the state Legislature and the U.S. House.
Another potential chairman candidate, attorney Mike Rothman, threw his support to Martin.
Martin headed two political funds that raised and spent millions to help put a Democrat in the governor’s office for the first time in 20 years. He also led a campaign that helped pass a constitutional amendment dedicating sales tax proceeds to the outdoors and the arts.
Current DFL chairman Brian Melendez is stepping down.
The party’s central committee meets Feb. 5 to pick a new leader.
-- Associated Press
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