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Cross-country skiiers are among the many Minnesotans who'll be affected by proposed changes in Gov. Pawlenty's two-year budget plan. Fees for using public ski trails would increase for daily and yearly passes. (MPR file photo)

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - Need a driver's license? Ski on state-maintained, cross-country trails? Get massages? Drink water? If so, Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed budget hits home.

Beyond the staggering size - it's a two-year, $29.6 billion plan that runs thousands of pages long - are changes here and there that connect the budget with virtually every Minnesotan.

Take driving. A new license would cost $3 more, rising from $18.50 to $21.50. Failing a road test more than twice would trigger a $20 fee to take it again.

If the hikes aren't enacted, the Division of Driver and Vehicle Services warns that road-test wait times could be a month or longer and driver's licenses might take three weeks or longer to mail out. Kevin Smith, an agency spokesman, said that would be triple the processing time in some cases. About 1.6 million driver's licenses are issued each year.

Higher fees run the gamut, affecting people who cross-country ski to those who raise bees.

A daily cross-country ski pass to use a 1,003-mile groomed trail system would go from $3 to $5. The annual trail pass would cost skiers $15 instead of the current $10. The higher fees are expected to raise $140,000 annually, on top of the $210,000 presently generated.

The beekeeper fee, currently $10, would go up a quarter for every one of the 120,000 colonies maintained by the approximately 500 beekeepers in Minnesota.

Fees imposed on public water supplies also rise. The $5.21 fee assessed on each water connection would climb to $6.36, bringing in $1.4 million more for programs meant to ensure quality drinking water.

On the spending side, Pawlenty has touted the hundreds of millions of dollars he directed toward education, from kindergarten through college.

But schools aren't the only beneficiaries. The governor sets aside $324,000 for new satellite equipment to track high-risk sex offenders, a slice of the nearly $8 million he puts into sex-offender monitoring.

Pawlenty devotes $2.5 million toward a new program intended to provide prenatal care, housing assistance and counseling to women with unexpected pregnancies, which he hopes will reduce abortions.

And, in example that shows how detailed the budgeting process can be, he grants the Department of Natural Resources permission to add 25 to 30 new docks on public waters and up to 75 portable toilets at popular water access sites.

Some state offices would shut their doors if the Pawlenty plan goes through.

The Office of Complementary and Alternative Practice, a watchdog for massage therapists and alternative-healing practioners, would disappear to save the state $65,000. The office investigates consumer complaints and takes action against unlicensed care providers when necessary.

The Department of Employment and Economic Development hopes to cut $104,000 by eliminating the Minnesota trade office in Japan, the state's third biggest trading partner in 2003. It is Minnesota's last overseas trade office.

Matt Kramer, the department's commissioner, said trade shouldn't suffer. Instead, the state will have an unpaid, honorary trade representative - a Minnesota business person who already has an office there - to informally broker conversations between companies here and their prospective Japanese partners.

"That doesn't cost us a dime because Minnesota companies are willing to do that," Kramer said. Kramer added that Minnesota's future trade focus will be on forging greater ties with China through a sustained marketing campaign the department will roll out in 30 to 45 days.

Two currently separate environmental entities - the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Office of Environmental Assistance - would merge under the budget. The resulting agency would be called the Minnesota Department of Environmental Protection and be charged with preventing pollution and restoring air, water and land quality.

As he did two years ago, Pawlenty wants to cut two programs that subsidize political campaigns. It's a move that would save the state $16 million over the next two years, but some fear it would deter small donations and increase the role of big money in campaigns.

The governor suggests getting rid of a $5 income tax checkoff, which now permits taxpayers to earmark money for the state's election campaign fund at no extra cost to them. Instead, he would allow taxpayers to contribute up to $25 to the campaign fund, through either a reduced income tax refund or higher tax payment.

He would also do away with Minnesota's unique political contribution refund program. It allows citizens to contribute up to $50 to eligible candidates and political parties and get a refund from the state for the full amount.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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