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Pawlenty names top tax collector, workplace safety official
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Republican governor-to-be Tim Pawlenty named Dan Salomone to lead the Department of Revenue, one of the key posts in his administration. Pawlenty also tapped private attorney Jane Volz to run the Department of Labor and Industry, which handles workers compensation claims and workplace safety matters. (MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire)
Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty has picked a longtime tax policy analyst to serve as commissioner of the state Department of Revenue. Dan Salomone, executive director of the Minnesota Taxpayers Association, will serve a key role as the new administration wrestles with a $4.5 billion state budget shortfall. Pawlenty also announced his selection of an attorney from Lakeville to head the Department of Labor and Industry.

St. Paul, Minn. — Dan Salomone of North St. Paul has worked on Minnesota tax policy for more than 26 years. For the past 11 years he has been the top staffer at the Minnesota Taxpayers Association, a policy research organization primarily funded by businesses. Before that he worked as a researcher for the state Senate and the Department of Revenue.

Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty says Salomone is a deep-thinker, innovative and "simply the best" person for the job. "Dan is perhaps the leading expert in fiscal and revenue and tax matters in the country," Pawlenty said. "And he is no stranger to the policy battles and policy discussions around the Capitol on tax matters."

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Image Dan Salomone

Salomone says he'll ensure Minnesota taxpayers receive professional, prompt and courteous service from the department. He says he'll push forward plans for state of the art tax processing and improved customer service.

Salomone will serve as key tax advisor in the Pawlenty administration. He says he agrees with the Republican governor's approach to solving the state's four and a half billion dollar budget deficit: "Gov.-elect Pawlenty has been very clear that we must not raise taxes to balance the budget. He wants change. He's challenging us to shake things up, to think about what we do and how we do it. Governor, I accept that challenge. And Minnesotans should know that I think we can get the job done without raising taxes."

Salomone says Minnesotans deserve a tax system that is fair, accountable and competitive. He says that system is in constant need of nurturing, and he'll be looking at possible improvements. Pawlenty says he'll consider tax reform proposals.

"We are interested in reform and change across the board, and that includes tax reform and improvement," Pawlenty said. "We just want to make sure there no net tax increase on Minnesota taxpayers. And so if there's some changes where it makes sense to adjust a particular tax one way and another one down, as long as the net tax burdens don't increase, we're open to reform and innovation in tax policy as well."

Pawlenty selected an attorney in private practice to serve as commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry. Jane Volz of Lakeville will oversee the state's workers compensation system and enforce workplace safety. She plans to leave the law firm she founded to become commissioner.

Volz says she's also mindful of the budget challenges ahead of her. "What we're going to try to do here is try to do more with less. We're going to try to save taxpayers dollars but still ensure workers safety," she said.

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Image Jane Volz

Pawlenty has now named six commissioners. His earlier appointments included the departments of administration, finance, human services and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. There are 19 more agency heads to be named. Pawlenty's transition team leader, Charlie Weaver, says the focus now shifts to commerce, education and natural resources.

"Some of the smaller ones that aren't as, I don't want to say important but they aren't as high profile, we can wait on those," Weaver said. "And there are good people in all the agencies already anyway. So our general philosophy is let's make sure we do it right."

Weaver says commissioners should be named for most of the major state departments by the time the new governor is inaugurated on Jan. 6. He says the next appointments could come as soon as Friday.

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