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Feds could help, not solve, deficit

Gov. Tim Pawlenty is trying to tamper expectations that a federal economic stimulus package could significantly ease Minnesota's budget problems.

Pawlenty said the state could receive more than $3 billion if the U.S. House version of an economic stimulus bill passes Congress and is signed by President Barack Obama.

However, that version may not emerge from congressional negotiations. Even if it did, Pawlenty said, some of the funding is targeted to specific education, outdoors and infrastructure programs. There could be $1 billion or more of flexible funding that could go toward the deficit, he said Friday on his weekly radio show.

"It looks like there's going to be substantial money available to help," but not solve, the budget deficit, Pawlenty said. That deficit is at least $4.85 billion; some experts say it could top $6 billion by spring.

The governor said he will intentionally "understate" federal aid in his two-year state budget proposal.

Coleman on Web

Norm Coleman is granting select Minnesota media interview requests, but tried to reach out to a broader audience through a Web video.

In the short video (, Minnesota's ex-senator and Senate candidate expresses confidence that he will win his upcoming court case. He said he will pick up votes when ballot controversies are resolved.

"Let me be clear: When the votes were counted on Election Day, I had the lead," Coleman said. "When the counties and secretary of state completed their initial canvassing process, I had the lead. And I fully expect that when the election contest is completed - if it is done fairly, with no votes counted twice and with all voters treated equally - I will win this election."

Don't answer that

Minnesota Rep. Al Juhnke doesn't like his committee meetings being interrupted by mobile telephones.

So the House Agriculture Finance Committee he leads has a rule: Anyone whose mobile phone rings out loud must put $1 in a coffee can. And if someone actually answers the call, they must pay $5, the Willmar Democrats warns those who venture into one of his meetings.

Big-time attorneys

Al Franken no doubt hopes his unresolved U.S. Senate contest in Minnesota ends the way a similarly prolonged 2004 governor's race in Washington state ended.

And Franken, a Democrat, stacked his legal line-up with veterans of that race. Two of his lead election attorneys -- Kevin Hamilton and David Burman -- worked for Washington's 2004 Democratic candidate for governor, Christine Gregoire. She appeared to have lost to her Republican opponent after the election -- as Franken appeared to have lost to Norm Coleman after the Nov. 4 election.

After weeks of legal proceedings, Gregoire emerged the winner and was sworn in.

Coleman has his own legal all-stars. They include Ben Ginsberg, a veteran of the Bush-Cheney presidential campaigns and a key player in the 2000 Florida recount, and well-known Twin Cities defense attorney Joe Friedberg.

Green Acres comedy

Minnesota's Green Acres law pre-dates the "Green Acres" television show by years, but it is hard to talk about Green Acres without talking about "Green Acres."

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said the way the Green Acres bill was modified last year reminded him of the work of shyster Mr. Haney on "Green Acres." The law was changed, Seifert said, without telling legislators the truth about the impact of the changes.

Rep. Al Juhnke, a Willmar Democrat who leads a House agriculture committee, reminded people at a Green Acres hearing that they were not there to discuss Arnold the pig from "Green Acres."

The Green Acres law is meant to lower farm property taxes in areas near high-taxed development areas, the theory being that lower taxes will keep farmland in agriculture instead of being sold for housing or business uses.