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Budget bills in brief

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Budget bills in brief
Rosemount Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

ST. PAUL - The Democrat-controlled Legislature planned to approve six budget bills Wednesday, including four replacing earlier bills Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed.

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Here is a look at the half-dozen budget bills:

Economic development

Business and workforce development programs would be funded at $345 million over the next two years. Lawmakers removed $35 million in overall general fund spending from an earlier budget package. The bill:

-- Provides $4.1 million for the Minnesota Investment Fund, a program promoting business expansion Pawlenty insisted be funded after lawmakers initially ignored it.

-- Lowers the 21st Century Mineral Fund allocation from $31.3 million to $14.9 million. The fund targets Iron Range economic development.

-- Still contains part of a packinghouse workers' rights bill, which some believe unfairly targets the meat-packing industry.

-- Retains three citizen members on the Iron Range Resources Board.

Health and human services

An estimated $9.5 billion would be spent on state health care and welfare programs, including $537 million in new spending. Pawlenty complained lawmakers want to spend too much in this area. The bill:

-- Provides 2.75 and 3 percent state aid increases to nursing homes and long-term care facilities over the next two years.

-- Does not include some key Pawlenty health initiatives and makes cuts to others.

-- Funds expansion of state-subsidized health insurance to include 78,000 new enrollees.

Higher education

The University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities systems, along with other higher education programs, would be funded at $3.17 billion. The bill eliminates $20 million higher education funding in 2010-11 lawmakers previously approved after Pawlenty complained. The bill also:

-- Includes $12 million for college funding assistance for military veterans, enough for undergraduate and graduate students.

-- Establishes a slimmed-down version of Pawlenty's Achieve college tuition assistance program for high-achieving high school students.

-- Allows children of illegal immigrants to pay resident tuition at some two-year colleges, a controversial measure.

Public schools

Early childhood programs and K-12 schools would receive $800 million in new funding, bringing total education spending to around $13.8 billion. The public school bill:

-- Includes a 2 percent increase to the basic state aid formula in 2008, but no increase in 2009.

-- Provides $387 million to help schools pay for special education programs.

-- Places a cap on the number of schools participating in Pawlenty's Q-Comp alternative teacher pay program.

-- Sets groundwork for more voluntary all-day kindergarten programs.

State agencies

A variety of state departments, including the Legislature and governor's office, would be funded at $716 million over two years. The state government funding bill:

-- Increases the Legislature's budget at a rate lawmakers say is necessary, but Pawlenty says is too high.

-- Makes more than $7 million in cuts to high-ranking positions in the Pawlenty administration, which the governor opposes.

Taxes

Top Democrats removed a proposed income tax increase on the richest Minnesotans from a large package of tax provisions. The tax bill:

-- Increases property tax refunds by $18 million in 2008 and boosts state aid to local governments by $121 million beginning in 2009.

-- Gains $244 million by tightening corporate tax collections, a controversial measure.

-- Includes $1 million for the Grand Marais area, which was damaged by the Ham Lake fire, and $100,000 for flood-damaged Browns Valley.

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