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Political notebook: Pawlenty warns Johnson

Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson called Tim Pawlenty "Governor Shutdown" minutes after Minnesota senators went home for the year late Wednesday. Not a good idea, Pawlenty said the next morning.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson called Tim Pawlenty "Governor Shutdown" minutes after Minnesota senators went home for the year late Wednesday.

Not a good idea, Pawlenty said the next morning. The Republican governor hinted the DFL senator could find himself in hot water if he is blamed for the eight-day partial government shutdown.

After being locked in a room with the four legislative leaders negotiating the budget, Pawlenty apparently has a lot of tales he could tell, including some about Johnson, DFL-Willmar.

"It would be in his best interest to be productive," not political, Pawlenty said as Johnson made the rounds promoting the Democratic spin on the just-completed special legislative session.

Hoeven: Still on top


A national tracking survey on gubernatorial approval has Gov. John Hoeven at the top for the third month in a row. In each state, SurveyUSA of Verona, N.J., interviewed 600 adults 18 or older between July 8 and July 19.

Hoeven had a 74 percent approval and 20 percent disapproval rating.

Ohio's Bob Taft remains dead last in constituents' regard. His approval score dropped 6 percentage points since June and his disapproval score rose by 5 points. This month, only 17 percent of Ohioans polled approved of his performance and 76 percent disapproved.

Misleading numbers

Many reports about the cost of Minnesota's eight-day partial government shutdown do not accurately reflect the true financial cost.

Employee Relations Commissioner Cal Ludeman pegged the shutdown cost at $12 million. But most of that money already is in the state budget. The real financial cost is about $2 million preparing for the shutdown and winding down from it, he said.

State employees were paid more than $10 million while they were off work. Many reports added that figure to the actual $2 million number.

Revenues, such as fees lost because some licenses were not being issued, eventually probably will be paid, Ludeman said.


Pawlenty said he is considering finding a way to pay employees for money they lost during the shutdown, but that probably will come during union contract talks that resume this week.

Costs for the eight-week special session are more straightforward. An early estimate puts the price at $150,000. Just 31 of 134 house members have collected daily expense payments known as per diems, while 31 of 67 senators put in for them.

Those costs are likely to rise as more lawmakers decide to collect the $66-a-day per diem.

Estate tax squabble

Arguments for and against repealing the federal estate tax have blossomed again. The U.S. Senate could vote on the issue this month.

The American Family Business Institute recently said it would sponsor

30-second TV ads against Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., seeking to persuade him to vote for a repeal.

On the other side, several groups, including the Congressional Business Office, have repeated statements that it is a myth that the estate tax hurts or ruins small business and farms.


Quoting the Congressional Budget Office, the New York Times reported a week ago that the number of farms on which estate tax is owed when the owners die has dropped 82 percent since 2000, to 300 farms. It is expected to drop further, until by 2009 only 65 percent of the country's 2.2 million farms will face an estate tax . The decrease is due to higher exclusions Congress enacted.

Americans for a Fair Estate Tax said a recent Federal Reserve survey of small-business finances showed the average net worth of small businesses is $702,566 and only 4 percent of small businesses have a net worth higher than the $3.5 million exemption that will be in place by 2009.

Readers can reach Forum Capitol reporters Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

or Don Davis at (651) 290-0707

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