Gov. Tim Pawlenty has written a letter to Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken urging them to oppose a tax on medical devices -- part of a proposal being mulled by Congress to pay for health care reform.

A compromise proposal by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the influential Senate Finance Committee, calls for medical device makers to pay $4 billion annually -- about 3 percent of annual U.S. sales -- for a 10-year period to help pay for the health care overhaul.

Major medical device companies, such as Fridley-based Medtronic Inc. and Boston Scientific Corp., which together employ 13,000 in Minnesota, have strongly opposed the measure, as has their industry association, AdvaMed.

On Monday, Pawlenty wrote Minnesota Democrats, urging them to remove the provision from Baucus' bill.

He argued that such a tax would prove "a severe burden on this industry," which is a major employer and economic engine in Minnesota.

Pawlenty noted that he supports health care reform, "but the focus must be on cost containment and affordability, improving quality and protecting patients."

Klobuchar's office issued this statement from her Monday night: "As I said last week when this proposal first surfaced, I am working with the medical device industry to improve this bill since the current proposal unfairly penalizes this industry. Medical device manufacturers in Minnesota are critical to our economy and to the development of cutting edge medical technology for the nation."

A spokeswoman for Franken said he is aware of the issue and intends to discuss his concerns with Baucus.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752