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Political notebook: Some suggesting gambling as way to boost budget

Little has been discussed about using gambling to help balance the state budget, but that could change in coming weeks as lawmakers look to ways to plug a $1.2 billion immediate deficit and a much longer-term problem.

Even if this is not the year, some Capitol insiders say the concept will live next year, when the budget looks even worse.

On the 2010 Minnesota legislative session's first day Thursday, Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said a coalition of interest groups is looking into adding a casino to a Twin Cities horse racing track and allowing video pull tabs in bars around the state. Proceeds could go to a variety of uses, he said, such as early childhood education, agriculture and stadiums.

Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said he did not think there are enough votes in either the House or the Senate to pass the concept, which Juhnke said could bring the state at least

$875 million a year.

Even if he doesn't think it will pass, Pogemiller said he is willing to give the bill a full hearing.

Peterson fears EPA

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and other congressmen introduced a bill to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

"I have no confidence that the EPA can regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act without doing serious damage to our economy," Peterson said. "Americans know we're way too dependent on foreign oil and fossil fuels in this country, and I've worked hard to develop practical solutions to that problem, but Congress should be making these types of decisions, not unelected bureaucrats at the EPA."

In December, EPA officials said that greenhouse gases are a public health danger and should be regulated under the federal Clean Air Act. Congress has until April to overturn the decision.

"The Clean Air Act was not meant for this," said Peterson, a western Minnesota Democrat. "It was meant to clean up the air, to get lead out of the air. It was not meant to fight global warming."

Grams backs Emmer

List former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams as a Tom Emmer supporter.

Grams announced his support for the Delano state representative running for governor in the Republican Party.

"With today's economic situation, it is important for our party to nominate someone with the strength to make the tough choices regarding the state's budget," Grams said. "I know the families in greater Minnesota will connect with Tom and his message because he shares our conservative values."