Political Notebook: Peterson Down, Not Out

By Don Davis

Talk to U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and he sounds down.

The western Minnesota Democrat uses words like “lunacy” and “stupid” to describe Republican actions on the farm bill, setting federal farm program for the next five years. Republicans did not work with him in recent days as they brought back the bill that failed last month, even though he said that with one change he could deliver 45 Democratic votes to make it a bipartisan effort.

Republicans narrowly approved a pared-down farm bill with no Democratic votes and a dozen GOP House members voting against it. It will be hard to match up with a Senate version that received overwhelming support.

Peterson began working on the farm bill four years ago, when Democrats controlled the House and he was Agriculture Committee chairman.

“It is like being caught in a four-year nightmare,” he said.

There have been good times, he admitted (“I have been up and down like a yo-yo”), but recently he has been at the bottom of the string.

He sounds pessimistic, uncertain if a farm bill can pass and be signed by the president “in the foreseeable future.” The bipartisan effort to draw up farm legislation that has ruled for decades disappeared this year, he said.

Peterson, a moderate Democrat, told his Republican colleagues that they had turned him into a partisan lawmaker on the issue, something “hard to do.”

The congressman has sounded upset with the process for months. So is he upset enough to leave Washington after being there since 1991?

“We have got to get the farm bill done before I can think of anything like that,” Peterson said. “I am not going to leave without getting the job done, on my own anyway.”

Reason for revenue

Minnesota Democrats and Republicans are arguing about who deserves credit for improved state revenues.

A report from state financial leaders, however, points to Washington Democrats as the reason Minnesota collected $463 million more than expected. Specifically, the reason appears to be that Minnesotans who earn good money did what they could to move their incomes into 2012, so they would pay income taxes based on old rates instead of what they expected to be higher taxes in 2013.

Income tax payments for the state budget that ended June 30 were $136 million more than planned.

Minnesota Management and Budget reported: “Much of the observed increase is believed to be attributable to high-income taxpayers choosing to move even more income into 2012 than was projected.”

That action means there could be less money in the current budget since those taxes already have been paid. It also means the bump in revenue is a one-time occurrence and state budget writers cannot expect it to continue.

State finance officials said the better economy contributed to higher revenues, a fact that was widely reported. Less attention was paid to the efforts to move incomes into 2012 to save money.

‘Fix it, Mark’

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California knew where to go a few years ago after her husband bought a defective can opener at Target.

She headed directly for then-Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, a member of the family that founded Target. She handed Dayton the malfunctioning product and expected results.

She got results.

“I went to the nearest store and bought them another one,” Dayton said.

The comment came as now-Gov. Dayton recalled his uncle, Douglas Dayton, who founded Target in 1962 and recently died after a long cancer battle.

The governor said his uncle’s stores caught on because they appeal to people “who want better value, but who still want quality.”

Commissioner to pitch

Politicians often make pitches, but Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger does it in a different way — with horseshoes.

Ehlinger is bringing back last summer’s “pitch the commissioner” events in which he visits communities and discusses health issues over games of horseshoes.

He pitched in Winona on Thursday and heads to Duluth on July 30, followed by other stops in the upcoming weeks.

“Pitching horseshoes is a fun and easy way for people to be physically active and engage in conversation at the same time,” Ehlinger said. “I want to hear what Minnesotans have to say about what their communities need to be healthy, and I want to highlight the achievements of local public health.”

Franken: Protect timber

U.S. Sen. Al Franken has joined others on a federal bill he says will protect Minnesota timber industry jobs.

The Minnesota Democrat said the bill will allow individual states, not the federal government, to regulate logging road water runoff.

“Minnesota’s ability to independently regulate our forests is important to the survival of the state’s timber industry and to the jobs and rural communities that depend on it,” Franken said. “This bipartisan legislation will clarify that the Clean Water Act was not intended to regulate storm water runoff on forest roads and allow state and local governments and private forest landowners to continue successfully managing Minnesota’s forests.”