Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
- Member for
- 3 years 7 months
ST. PAUL - The pre-season, if you will, is about over for Minnesota legislators. When they return to work Tuesday, after more than a week off for Easter and Passover, the final preliminary work begins to wrap up. Then the real job starts in about three weeks. Lawmakers can expect what has been an easy session to change as hard decisions must be made in coming weeks: -- Is a 9.8 percent increase in the state budget, as Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes, enough? Or should it rise 18.7 percent, as Senate Republicans figure Senate Democrats want? -- Should income taxes rise?
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is working to get more E-85 pumps installed. In a letter co-signed by 11 other senators, congressional agricultural leaders are encouraged to provide federal funding for installing the pumps. The Minnesota Democrat said Minnesota is the country's leader in selling E-85 fuel, a blend of 85 percent corn-based ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, but other states need to sell more. Of the 170,000 gasoline stations in the country, fewer than 1,200 sell E-85, she said. A quarter of the country's E-85 pumps are in Minnesota.
ST. PAUL - Border cities would fall under the same laws as other Minnesota communities, a House committee decided Monday when debating a statewide smoking ban. Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, wanted smoking allowed in border cities' bars and private clubs, but it was defeated on a close voice vote.
ST. PAUL - One of the country's most quoted political scientists labels U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Gov.
U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar says he is worried that airline maintenance and inspection standards are slipping. The Minnesota Democrat said airlines hiring other companies to conduct maintenance could be hurting safety. In a recent House hearing, Oberstar told Federal Aviation Administration officials about his concern. "You lose contact with the reality that this is an aircraft, not a piece of paper, not a document popping up on a computer screen," Oberstar said. "I am much more comfortable with hands-on than I am with fingers on the keyboard and pop-up screens."
ST. PAUL - Minnesota Democratic senators knew in February they would suggest raising taxes to fund their top priorities, but first talked about it publicly last week and on Saturday passed a nearly $1 billion income tax increase. The tax increase was kept under wraps to direct attention toward education needs, the Senate's education finance chairman said. "There is a hesitancy on keeping the center of focus on taxes rather than investment," Sen.
ST. PAUL - It was just last Monday when the Minnesota Senate approved an education funding bill, but now Senate Democrats want to add another $444 million. That education funding bump and property tax relief require a $900 million income tax increase, Senate leaders say. Democratic-Farmer-Laborite senators Thursday released a plan to spend $444 million more than a $794 million raise the full Senate approved on Monday.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota senators passed the largest of three public works bills Wednesday, but there is a desire for more. Moments after senators voted 56-9 to fund $306 million in public works projects, the committee chairman in charge of picking projects to fund said he expects to spend even more. The House Tuesday night approved $255 million in public works projects, while Gov. Tim Pawlenty asked for $71 million. The Senate bill would spend $135 million from a $1 billion state budget surplus. Another $170 million would be funded by the state selling bonds. Sen.
ST. PAUL - Income tax increases topping $500 million appear likely to pass the Minnesota Senate by week's end. Democratic-Farmer-Laborite senators want to bump up education funding anywhere between $500 million and $1 billion, and income taxes look like their chosen way to fund the bigger budgets. Decisions could be made today about just how to raise taxes, with the Senate Taxes Committee chairman suggesting they restore personal income taxes to 2001 levels. Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he and others made a mistake cutting taxes in 2001.
ST. PAUL - A Senate tax bill Minnesota senators may consider Friday would stop Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Job Opportunity Building Zone program, his top rural economic priority. JOBZ would accept no new businesses after May 1 under the bill introduced Wednesday.