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 - 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 - 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 - Students at Minnesota public colleges and universities would see smaller tuition increases than they've experienced in recent years under a House proposal released Tuesday. The University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities systems are targeted for a combined funding boost of about $361 million over the next two years in the higher education budget bill sponsored by Rep.
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 - 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.
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.
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.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota senators voted to increase higher education spending Thursday, but complained it was not enough to prevent tuition increases or to launch any significant new programs. The measure ups spending $296 million for the next two years, leaving a higher education budget of $3.1 billion. "Personally I am very dissatisfied with it," Higher Education Chairwoman Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said. "All we could do is fund a status quo budget." It is a comment expected on the Senate floor often through April 2, when senators are supposed to have their spending bills finished.