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MINNESOTA POLITICS: Pawlenty says it's too early to run

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty is traveling the country talking about how the Republican Party should improve, fueling speculation that he is preparing for a 2010 presidential run.

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty is traveling the country talking about how the Republican Party should improve, fueling speculation that he is preparing for a 2010 presidential run.

But as he prepared to leave for a weekend Values Voters Summit sponsored by conservative organizations, Pawlenty said he has not decided whether he is running.

"Anybody who is looking at 2012 is getting way ahead of themselves," he said. "I have not even decided if I will stay in politics after 2010."

Democrats think Pawlenty is running for president. The party's national leaders began a campaign called "Call 'Em Out" to "set the record straight" after Pawlenty and other Republicans say things they do not think are true.

"The message to Tim Pawlenty and the opponents of change who would lie or misrepresent the truth should be clear: You are not going to get away with it," a Democratic Party news release said. "We are going to respond forcefully and consistently with the facts, and you will no longer be able to peddle your lies with impunity."

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Power lines needed

More electric transmission lines are needed before renewable energy projects can be built, a new study shows.

The report by the state Commerce Department indicates small power plants such as what Pawlenty would like to see built will be tough to be profitable because there are not enough lines to move power to where it is needed.

"We are using our transmission near its capacity, with little room for more projects without building more transmission," said William Glahn, director of the Minnesota Office of Energy Security.

'Drop device tax'

Minnesota's two U.S. senators, both Democrats, agree with Pawlenty that a proposed tax on medical device makers is a bad idea.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken joined two others in asking the Senate Finance Committee chairman to drop the proposal.

"While we support efforts to ensure that any health care reform bill does not add to our country's deficit, this industry should not be forced to pay more than its fair share," the senators wrote.

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Pawlenty earlier asked Klobuchar and Franken to oppose the $40 billion tax in a health care reform bill.

Minnesota is home to some of the top medical device makers and designers, Pawlenty said, such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific, 3M and St. Jude. The governor wrote to the senators that the proposed tax would "add to patient cost, lead to job losses and slow the advance of medical innovation."

Mental health aid

Franken wants federal funds to pay for mental health screenings for military personnel returning from overseas.

"Congress needs to take action to address the shortfalls in the military's system of identifying and caring for post-traumatic stress injuries," Franken said. "We need to do more to make sure that the men and women who have risked everything for us are able to live happy, productive lives when they return home."

Franken joined other senators, Democrats like him as well as Republicans, in asking that the screening begin.

Nearly 20 percent of those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ag grants available

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Minnesotans with ideas to help farming can ask the state Agriculture Department for money.

The department will award as much as $90,000 next year for projects in areas like fruit and vegetable production, livestock production systems, conservation tillage and weed management, organic farming and alternative energy crop production. Officials are especially interested in projects that improve the environment and conserve resources.

"Minnesota farmers have a strong interest in adopting new approaches that protect the environment and increase profitability," Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson said. "These grants give our producers and researchers the opportunity to pursue these ideas and track the results."

In the past, Minnesotans have put on their thinking caps to develop ideas such as kiwifruit that can grow in cold weather to extending the vegetable growing season.

More information is at www.mda.state.mn.us/greenbook .

Davis writes for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

Related Topics: TIM PAWLENTY
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