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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: More questions than answers for primary

ST. PAUL - Aug. 10's Democratic-Farmer-Laborite governor primary election is tough to handicap.

Polls ranking the three major DFL candidates often have put Mark Dayton ahead, but there are so many unknowns this year.

Candidates Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Matt Entenza and Dayton each say they are targeting likely voters; the problem is knowing who is likely to vote.

Most political observers say the only sure thing is that senior citizens will dominate the election. They always are most likely to vote, but this year it could be even more so. The primary election was moved up a month, which some say could eliminate some younger people with busy summer schedules.

If those older than 65 dominate the polls, conventional wisdom is that Dayton does well, but Kelliher and Entenza dispute that idea.

A Rasmussen poll conducted for Fox 9 in the Twin Cities shows that 51 percent of senior citizens have a very or somewhat favorable impression of Dayton, several points better than any other candidate. One of Dayton's television commercials is all about seniors, reminding them that when he was senator he offered bus rides to Canada so seniors could buy less expensive medicine.

The candidates have made a point of visiting senior centers and produced television commercials featuring many senior faces.

Warmer homes

The University of Minnesota is leading a study on a topic close to every Minnesotan: how to have a warmer home.

The U.S. Energy Department picked the university to lead a group charged with the job of developing cost-effective ways to reduce home energy use while improving comfort.

NorthernSTAR Energy Efficient Housing Research Partnership Team, as the university-led program is known, will concentrate on building homes in cold climates. Related programs elsewhere in the country will have different focuses.

"The construction, operation and maintenance of our homes use approximately one-quarter of our nation's total energy consumption," the university's Pat Huelman said. "This initiative will conduct the research and provide the outreach needed to support a growing energy retrofit industry. The results will be to create new job opportunities that will enhance the performance and value of our nation's housing stock, save homeowners and renters money, and provide long-term benefits to our environment."

Refunds available

Minnesota homeowners and renters have until Aug. 15 to apply for a property tax refund.

Local county assessor's offices and the state Revenue Department have information about the refund.

"Due to cuts in aids to local governments, property taxes across Minnesota continue to increase, making it more important than ever to take advantage of the refund program within the next few weeks," Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL- Chisholm, said. "Property taxes are not based on a person's income, but rather property value and a number of other factors that can't be controlled by owners or tenants. The refund program is the state's attempt to balance the amount of property taxes owed relative to a person's ability to pay."

Homeowners earning less than $98,290 and rents with an income of less than $53,030 may apply. The maximum refund for a homeowner is $2,350 and renter may get up to $1,510.

Also, homeowners whose property taxes have gone up by more than 12 percent may qualify for another refund.

Better R&D

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is pushing federal legislation to improve university research and development programs.

A bill the Minnesota Democrat co-sponsors orders the National Science Foundation promote that goal.

"Our universities are incubators for innovative ideas that lead to new technologies, new products and new jobs," Klobuchar said. "The National Science Foundation is instrumental in supporting research and devolvement of new technologies in our academic institutions. We need to make innovation a driving force of a national plan to increase our economic competitiveness."

Tax credits ready

People investing in new companies specializing in new technologies may apply for tax credits from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Known as an angel tax credit, it is designed to help fund start-up companies.

"Minnesota has a strong history of developing high-tech companies," DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy said. "This program will make the state even more competitive in high technology by encouraging private investment dollars that are the lifeblood of promising young businesses."

Information is available at