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Capitol Chatter: Peterson wants to stay in Congress; Nolan still thinking

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson meets Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, with the Diversion Authority, in the Fargo City Commission Room. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service1 / 2
U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan speaks during healthcare forum organized by the Head of the Lakes United Way in the Underground at the Depot in Duluth Friday afternoon, March 3, 2017. Clint Austin / Forum News Service2 / 2

ST. PAUL — Collin Peterson is running for U.S. House again, but Rick Nolan is waiting to decide whether to make a re-election or governor bid.

And Tim Walz is giving up his House seat to run for governor.

Peterson's decision to run again is a bright sign for Minnesota Democrats because the southern Minnesota district Walz represents leans Republican and Nolan's 8th Congressional District — encompassing north-central, northeast and east-central Minnesota — is growing more Republican. The GOP had hoped to pick up all three seats, and many in the party still say they have a chance in Peterson's heavily Republican 7th Congressional District.

Peterson's announcement came out of the blue Wednesday, April 26, when he spilled the beans to Washington, D.C.-based Roll Call.

"Yeah, I'm running," Peterson told Roll Call. "I've got 700 grand in the bank."

His comment came 2½ weeks after his spokeswoman said Peterson refused to talk to Forum News Service about Tim Miller's entry into the race, and in any case the congressman would not decide his political future until early next year.

MIller, a state representative, and David Hughes are in the Republican race to unseat Peterson. Hughes came closer than most Republicans have to Peterson last year, despite having very little money, and Miller has more political connections and could get more money than Hughes did.

In the meantime, Nolan told Roll Call that he will miss his April 30 deadline to decide whether he is running for Congress again or exit Congress to run for governor.

Peterson, who backs Walz for governor, predicted that Nolan will opt not to seek the state job. There already is a crowd of candidates running to replace Gov. Mark Dayton.

As for Peterson himself, Hughes' good showing last November has put the district on the national GOP radar again. In 2014, millions of dollars were spent to unseat Peterson, but he still beat state Sen. Torrey Westrom by 9 points. Similar spending can be expected in 2018.

The natural question is whether the 2018 will be Peterson's last in Congress. His answer: "Who knows? I thought the last one was the last. But I'm still, I think, doing some good, still enjoying it, so I'll keep plugging away."

Peterson has been in Congress since 1991.

Bill backs world's fair

The U.S. House has unanimously backed legislation that some Minnesotans hope brings a world's fair to the state.

The bill by Minnesota U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer and Betty McCollum enabled Minnesota to bid on the fair. The last such fair in the United States was 1984.

The United States dropped out of an international organization that sponsors world fairs, but the legislation allows the secretary of state to rejoin, with private funds being used to pay dues and other expenses.

"Minnesota is a great state with a lot to offer, and hosting a world's fair or expo is an incredible opportunity to bring people, revenue and tax dollars to Minnesota, all while showing off our state's natural beauty and incredible people," Emmer said.

McCollum said a Minnesota fair would "focus on health innovation based on the theme wellness and well-being for all."

Three other countries are in competition with Minnesota for the 2023 fair.

Dayton against 'vouchers'

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton sees a Republican tax proposal as a school voucher, which would provide state money to families whose children may attend private schools.

As such, he opposes the provision.

"I will veto any bill that has vouchers attached to it," he said when asked about the tax measure.

Vouchers usually are considered as a more direct way to pay private schools. But after reporters pressed him, he added the tax break plan to his definition.

If he follows through on his threat, keeping the provisions in tax legislation would mean many other tax cut plans would disappear in a veto.

On the other hand, Dayton is happy to provide preschool scholarships to families with kids attending either public or private preschools.

'Forget Wisconsin'

The Minnesota House tax chairman "guarantees" his provision to pay Minnesotans who lose money by working in Wisconsin will be in the tax bill lawmakers pass in May.

The provision by Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, could deliver up to $4 million a year to thousands of Minnesotans who pay more income taxes because they work in Wisconsin rather than Minnesota.

The two states used to have a "reciprocity" agreement that allowed residents of one state who work in the other pay the lower tax bill. But that ended when Wisconsin fell millions of dollars in behind in payments to Minnesota.

Davids, whose southeast Minnesota district has the most Minnesotans who work in Wisconsin, said negotiations between tax officials in the two states have gone nowhere. Earlier this year he said, "Working with Wisconsin, you might as well be talking to a stump."

The Minnesota tax bill would encourage the states to resume negotiations, but if they fail the Minnesota tax provision would continue.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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