June 2, 2005
Talk, talk, talk

There was some long distance posturing Wednesday, but still no deal at the Capitol. And planning has begun for a government shutdown. DFL Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson seems to take pleasure at poking at Gov. Pawlenty when the governor is on a road trip. It goes back to the last weeks of the session when Johnson was on the road and the governor made an issue of his absence. On Wednesday johnson appeared to reject the governor's cigarette tax. MPR's Michael Khoo has the story:

Johnson says he doubts the plan would even pass in the GOP-run House. And he suggested that until Republicans can prove otherwise, the Pawlenty cigarette plan isn't ready for discussion. Johnson, meanwhile, says citizens still expect adequate funding for health care and education -- programs the Senate funds with significant tax increases, including a new upper-tier income tax bracket.

"There's a whole group of folks out there, called the majority of Minnesotans, that want it our way. And they want it for schools, and they want it for health care, and they want it for roads, and they want it for the environment," said Johnson.

But top Republican lawmakers and the governor say they're steadfastly against the Senate's medley of proposed tax increases. And House Speaker Steve Sviggum says he has no intention of bringing the governor's cigarette tax to the House floor for a test vote.

Sviggum -- who, along with Pawlenty, insists the cigarette charge is a "fee," not a "tax" -- says with time running out, the Senate's piecemeal approach to budget-building makes no sense.

No wonder the governor's office has started to quietly plan for shutting down state agencies starting on July 1.

Along with trying to find a funding source for taxpayer funded health care programs, a DFL-sponsored plan to identify companies with large numbers of uninsured employees. The Star Tribune has that story:

The world's largest retailer has denounced as a public-relations ploy legislation -- which some state legislators have dubbed the "anti-Wal-Mart bill" -- that would create a public list of companies whose workers are enrolled in MinnesotaCare and other government-funded health care programs.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant recently sent two executives to St. Paul to lobby against the bill, which the Legislature may vote on in special session this month. Wal-Mart also sent a two-page letter describing its health care benefits to every legislator in the state.

"This is not health care reform," said Nate Hurst, public and government relations manager for Wal-Mart. "This is a campaign against Wal-Mart."

But proponents of the bill, whose chief author is Sen. Becky Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, say the public has a right to know which employers have become a drain on the state's public health care system. They say the bill does not target Wal-Mart in particular but is meant to see how the state can work with companies to provide better health care programs.

As we said yesterday there's another DFLer in the race for governor. MPR's Tom Scheck has that story:

Standing in front of a yellow school bus with friends and family, Kelley announced his bid for governor. Wearing a kelly green tie, of course, Kelley said he would focus on core Democratic issues if he's elected governor. He says his campaign will be about improving Minnesota's quality of life.

"If we want more jobs, better roads, clean water and affordable health care, we must care a lot more about the education of our youth today," he said.

Kelley served in the Minnesota Senate since 1996. Prior to that, he was in the Minnesota House for four years.

Kelley's been a leading advocate on issues involving technology. He's also been a constant foil to Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Kelley played a large part in the ouster of Cheri Pierson-Yecke, Pawlenty's first choice for education commissioner. As the chair of the Senate Education Committee, Kelley has also criticized the governor's budget proposals. He said the state is headed in the wrong direction under Pawlenty.

Finally everybody is still talking about the governor's veto of the poet laureate bill. And everybody is still writing bad poems about it. MPR's Steven John sent me this one that he wrote:

The notion of a poet laureate sent Pawlenty's pen to excoriate,

a bill that wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime.

No, our fiscal-minded governor says a head poet could be fodder
for future requests for a state mime, interpretive dancer or potter.

Now, Governor Tim can abide a state folklorist and muffin,
a norway pine is a grand tree and a loon beats a puffin.

But, a top Minnesota poet, it seems a bit much....
Besides, the governor is too busy with special sessions and such.

But to lawmakers the last word could be due...
If a veto over ride they seek to pursue.

However, that's not likely according to the bill's sponsor,
Representative Barb Sykora, a Republican from Excelsior.

I'm sure she believes like the rest of her caucus,
...better buckle down or be at the Capitol in August.

Is it just me, or are some of those rhymes clinkers? Listen this afternoon as Mr. John delivers his newscasts in iambic pentameter.

Posted by Mike Mulcahy at 6:40 AM