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Business leaders pessimistic

Minnesota businesses are like those elsewhere in the country, pessimistic and eagerly awaiting federal action.

The attitude is bound to affect Minnesota politics, a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce survey of business owners and managers shows.

Chamber President David Olson said the survey indicates the 2009 state legislative session, in which lawmakers will write a two-year state budget, likely will be contentious.

"The 2009 session already looms important, especially if the economic downturn continues and there is pressure to raise taxes," Olson said. "We are likely to see numerous proposals to raise taxes on business, and they could not come at a worse time."

A state budget deficit of between $1 billion and $2 billion can be expected, the chamber predicted.

More than half of the chamber Business Barometer poll's respondents said higher taxes are the biggest problem their companies face when it comes to trying to create jobs. A year earlier, high taxes were listed as the No. 1 problem by a third of those taking the poll.

"In a weak economy, we should be looking for ways to strengthen the environment for job creation," Olson said. "It is clear from the Business Barometer that raising taxes would discourage new investment."

West shut out

The western-most Minnesota U.S. Senate debate will be in Minneapolis, scheduled for next Saturday.Others include a Duluth encounter on Oct. 16 and two in St. Paul, on Oct. 24 and Nov. 2. The three major candidates will be in each debate.

To counter polls showing incumbent Norm Coleman, a Republican, with leads of up to 10 points, a Democratic organization released its own survey showing a 2-point Al Franken advantage. The Independence Party's Dean Barkley is pulling anything from 12 percent to 19 percent, without spending the millions of dollars on advertising coming from the big two.

Big ag names

The Minnesota Agri-Growth Council is attracting a couple of the country's biggest names in agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, a former North Dakota governor, highlights the group's Oct. 30 meeting in St. Paul. Also on the agenda is U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty rounds out the big-name list, although several other agriculture leaders also will talk to the organization that advocates for the state's food and agriculture industry.

By the way, don't expect Peterson to tell the council that he hopes to be agriculture secretary if fellow Democrat Barack Obama is elected. He recently said, again, there is

"no way" he would take the job if offered. "I am not interested."