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Minnesota Political Notebook: Pay freeze possible, if ...

ST. PAUL - A top state union official leaves the door open for Minnesota officials and union members to negotiate a pay freeze.

Eliot Seide, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5, said the 43,000 union members he represents feel the existing contract should not be renegotiated. He did not rule out a freeze in the next contract, with negotiations starting within months.

However, he said, there would be at least one requirement in negotiations when they start in the spring: If Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes a pay freeze, he must guarantee there would be no layoffs.

Pawlenty said he wants government officials at all levels to freeze pay. He has been especially critical of local governments who complain about state aid cuts and at the same time give themselves pay raises.

Two in Minnesota's congressional delegation are seeking pay freezes for their jobs - Democratic U.S. Reps. Tim Walz of southern Minnesota and Collin Peterson, who serves the western part of the state.

"I have been on both sides of this issue," Peterson said. "Given what is going on, I think we should freeze next year's pay raise. I think that is what is going to happen."

DTV divide

U.S. Reps. Jim Oberstar and Collin Peterson are two Democratic Minnesotans who have plenty of disagreements.

One highly publicized one in recent days came when Peterson voted against the House economic stimulus package that Oberstar helped write.

A less public divide was over the switch to digital television.

"We have had enough time," Peterson said hours after voting to keep the mandatory switchover date as Feb. 17.

Oberstar voted to delay the change until June 12.

"I have heard from a great many people who are concerned about the tight timeframe," he said.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she is concerned with the House decision, which followed a unanimous Senate vote to delay.

Back in the day...

Joe Friedberg is Norm Coleman's star attorney in his U.S. Senate election trial.

But, Coleman recalled, they once appeared on opposite sides of the courtroom.

Coleman said that years ago, when he an assistant state attorney general, he prosecuted an incest case in the southwestern Minnesota town of Slayton. Friedberg was the criminal defense attorney.

"In those days, lawyers were actually friends," Coleman joked.

He and Friedberg have been good friends over the years.

But who won that 1981 case?

"I did," Coleman said.

Two-state governor?

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Democrat who represents northeast and east-central Minnesota, does not hide the fact that he is not GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty's biggest fan.

When Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, testified in front of Oberstar's House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee the congressman was impressed that Doyle appeared to have his state ready to accept federal economic stimulus money at a time when he doubted that Pawlenty was ready.

Oberstar was so impressed that he leaned over and in a mock whisper said: "Would you like to be governor of Wisconsin AND Minnesota?"

Ironically, Doyle and Pawlenty are close, despite being of different parties, and recently announced plans to figure out ways the two states can save money by working together.

No penalty

Collin Peterson was one of just 11 U.S. House Democrats to vote against an economic stimulus bill Wednesday, but he said he will not face retribution as House Agriculture Committee chairman.

Peterson said that House leaders understand he is a fiscal conservative and are not trying to change him.

"I talked to the speaker right before the vote and she didn't even ask me," he said.

State Capitol reporter Scott Wente contributed to this report.