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Minnesota balanced budget stirs up factions

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's Democrats and Republicans are squabbling not only about who has the best plan to balance the state budget, but even who has a plan.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said to the chamber's top Republican: "I'm wondering if your side has developed a plan to balance the state budget."

Minority Leader Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, did not promise a full budget-cutting plan, but said Republicans will continue to offer idea and amendments.

However, the North Dakota native added, Democrats do not really have a full budget plan, either. A budget-reduction plan due for a Monday vote leaves out health and human services and public school programs, thorny issues that Democrats who control the Legislature plan to take up later.

Zellers and other Republicans like to say that if the Democrats, who control both chambers of the Legislature, would let them run committees, they could make progress. But Republicans say it is the majority party's responsibility to develop budgets, not theirs.

"If you would like us to do your work for you, that is fine," Zellers told Sertich during an exchange on the House floor.

Sertich said that is not good enough. "I think it is responsible for you to offer a plan that actually helps balance the state budget."

"What I am guessing is you don't have a solution," Sertich said.

Responded Zellers: "You scolded us quite often that you are in charge. ... We are going to let you do the work."

Palin, Bachmann together

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin joins U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann at an April 7 Minneapolis rally.

Free tickets are available from the state Republican Party.

The event will be in the Minneapolis Convention Center, Hall D, with doors opening at noon and the event itself starting at 2 p.m.

"The phones have been ringing off the hook here at the Republican Party of Minnesota since we announced that Gov. Sarah Palin would be in town for a rally with our great Congresswoman Michele Bachmann," party Chairman Tony Sutton said.

A private Bachmann fundraiser follows the rally at a downtown Minneapolis hotel. The reception, which includes a photo with the two women, will cost $10,000 per couple. A dinner goes for $500 each.

Fewer insured

A new report shows fewer middle-class Minnesotans are protected by health insurance.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also says the cost of health insurance in the state is rising faster than incomes and that fewer Minnesotans are being offered health insurance through their jobs.

The foundation said 21st century recessions has taken "a tremendous toll on people's ability to afford health insurance -- and employers' capacity to offer it."

In Minnesota, the 107,000 were uninsured in 2000 and 127,000 in 2008, the foundation reported.

At the same time, Minnesota families who get insurance through work pay about 54 percent more than in 2000. One out of 10 Minnesotans held jobs with companies that did not offer health insurance.

Democrats debate

Even Democratic-Farmer-Laborite lawmakers don't agree among themselves on how to balance the state budget.

After a Supreme Court hearing about Gov. Tim Pawlenty's unilateral budget-cutting moves last summer, Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said it would be irresponsible for lawmakers to wait for a court ruling before they balance the state budget.

But a couple of days later, House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said it would be irresponsible to pass a complete budget fix before hearing from the court.

Cutting tobacco use

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system board wants its 54 campuses to further restrict tobacco use.

While the colleges abide by state law that forbids smoking in public buildings, some schools have gone beyond that, with nine schools forbidding tobacco use anywhere on campus.

"This is an important step," MnSCU Trustee Christine Rice said. "It sends a clear signal to our campuses that while we value these decisions being made at the local level, we also encourage them to help advance the health and safety of everyone on campus with this well-documented risk."

Klobuchar on impeachment

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is on a 12-senator committee to gather evidence against Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana.

The House voted to impeach the judge last week and the Senate is due to hold a trial. He is accused of being involved in a corrupt kickback scheme and lying to the Senate and FBI.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.