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.
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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 - 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.
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 - Smokers would be banned from all public Minnesota workplaces other than well ventilated outdoor patios under a Senate-passed bill. Minnesota senators voted 41-24 Tuesday for a strict smoking ban, turning back several efforts to weaken it. The House version of the measure awaits action in a committee with a chairman opposed to the measure. Long-time anti-smoking advocate Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, said the Senate vote is a victory. "My main thing is trying to change the culture," he said. "This legislation will discourage smoking in this state.
ST. PAUL - Leaky roofs will be fixed, flood prevention measures will be taken and building additions will be constructed if a House-passed public works bill becomes law. On an 84-45 vote, the House Tuesday night approved a bill funding public works projects across the state. The $255 million measure is a far cry from the $1 billion bills lawmakers passed in the last couple of years. Odd-numbered years such as this normally are dedicated to drawing up a two-year budget, which legislators are doing.
ST. PAUL - The average rural Minnesota homeowner would pay 9.9 percent lower property taxes under a House Democratic proposal that faces a questionable future. "This plan, linking it to income, will allow senior citizens to stay in their houses, families to stay in their neighborhoods and farmers to stay on the land," Property Tax Chairman Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said. What Revenue Commissioner Warn Einess called a "supercharged" property tax refund based partially on a taxpayer's income would provide much of the tax relief. But Einess said Gov.
ST. PAUL - Republican Minnesota senators know what it is like to be the minority since they perennially field fewer members than Democrats. With that comes complaints, and last week those complaints were louder than usual. Senators engaged in a protracted Thursday debate about a resolution requiring any attempts to amend bills on the Senate floor to stay within spending in the original bill.
A rural Minnesota high school for students addicted to alcohol or drugs needs state help to continue, Sen. Steve Dille told legislators Friday. The Libre Academy in Litchfield needs $60,000 to get through the school year, Dille told the Senate Finance Committee as it debated an education funding bill. "They're basically short of money," Dille, R-Dassel, said in asking for $25,000 for Libre Academy.
Minnesota state employees who were forced to use their vacation time during a July 2005 partial government shutdown would be paid in full under a bill Minnesota lawmakers are considering. A House committee approved the payments, and a similar bill awaits Senate consideration. Many state employees were sent home in 2005 after lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty could not agree on a new budget.
ST. PAUL - The Minnesota legislative pace picked up in recent days, so much so that it felt more like the frenzied end of session. Senators face an April 2 deadline for approving all of their spending bills. Representatives must pass their spending bills out of finance committees by then, and finish all work on finance bills in April.