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
- 2 years 4 months
ST. PAUL - If Tuesday paints a picture of how the 2009 legislative session will end, it won't be pretty. An exchange between legislative leaders and a key Pawlenty administration official Tuesday morning was as tense of an exchange as seen in the Capitol this year. And things got worse a few hours later in the House chamber. Republicans shouted down the Democratic speaker when she ruled that time had expired on a transportation debate, with two GOP amendments not yet heard.
ST. PAUL - Negotiators assigned the task of funding public works projects across Minnesota have a common problem - money. The House and Senate don't agree on how much to spend, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty said both want to spend too much. The public works funding measure - commonly known as the bonding bill - was supposed to be wrapped up early this legislative session, but the dispute dragged on Monday when a House-Senate conference committee brought Commissioner Tom Hanson of Minnesota Management and Budget into a meeting to discuss the situation.
ST. PAUL - What to do about taxes is the most controversial of many controversial money issues in the Minnesota Legislature. Among the hottest issues is how tax proposals affect businesses. And the controversy of controversies - whether to raise taxes - overshadows everything, in part because of disputes about how businesses would react. For example, after Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, explained Senate Democrats' tax bill, the Senate's top Republican explained his opposition. "They are good carrots," Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said of business tax breaks in the Bakk bill.
ST. PAUL -- Senators opted to raise nearly every Minnesotan's income tax as a way to help fill a massive budget state budget deficit. The bill that passed 35-31 Friday night would increase the percentage paid in all three existing Minnesota income tax brackets and add a fourth tier for couples earning at least $250,000 a year and single Minnesotans making about half that. Income taxes would rise $2.2 billion. Republicans were joined by a few Democrats, mostly those in conservative districts, in opposing the measure. Gov.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota education funding plans by the House, Senate and Gov. Tim Pawlenty are similar in many ways, but the amount they spend - and how they plug a deficit - differ. A bill the House passed 85-48 Thursday night would spend $13.7 billion on public education for the next two years, the same as in the current two-year budget cycle. The Senate would cut funding 3.3 percent, while Pawlenty suggests increasing spending 1.4 percent. To accomplish their higher spending, Pawlenty and the House plan to delay sending school districts state money.
ST. PAUL -- Concerns about Minnesota's economy and the tourism industry led lawmakers to reject a proposal allowing public schools to start before Labor Day. Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, proposed allowing school districts to begin their academic year anytime before Labor Day, so long as classes are not held on the Thursday and Friday before the Labor Day weekend. "The proposal is not just about 'ma and pa resorts,'" said Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji. "This is very much about our economy and this is not the time to be messing with the economy." Rep.
ST. PAUL -- Higher fees keep could keep spending on outdoors programs from deeper funding cuts. Even with millions of dollars in fee increases, some budgets may shrink rapidly, Minnesota legislators say. For instance, state tax money headed to the Pollution Control Agency would shrink by 19 percent under a funding plan senators approved Thursday 49-15. And the Department of Natural Resources would get 5 percent less state funding. To help compensate, senators approved increasing fees $5 million, slightly less than Gov. Tim Pawlenty suggested.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota representatives told state-run colleges and universities to hold tuition increases to a minimum the next two years. A bill House members passed 86-46 Wednesday keeps Minnesota State Colleges and University system tuition increases to no more than 2 percent a year for the next two years. University of Minnesota tuition is capped at 3 percent annually.
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House would give veterans programs more money, but delay or eliminate some agriculture spending. But for some representatives, neither got enough money in a Wednesday 83-49 mostly party-line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. "We are willing to fund dog parks and trails and hockey arenas," Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, said. "Where is our priority?" Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said his committee did the best it could to fund agriculture and veterans programs, given the budget deficit.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota representatives told state-run colleges and universities to hold tuition increases to a minimum the next two years. A bill House members passed 86-46 Wednesday keeps Minnesota State Colleges and University system tuition increases to no more than 2 percent a year for the next two years. University of Minnesota tuition is capped at 3 percent annually. The vote was mostly party line, with Democrats for and Republicans against. "The stimulus money really helped us with this bill," Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said. "Thank heavens it was there.