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To tax or not to tax: That's the big question for legislators this sesson

ST. PAUL -- Whether Democratic Minnesota senators favor passing a tax increase this year is an unanswered question.

Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller of Minneapolis said on Friday that he agreed with those who say a tax increase will not succeed in light of Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty's strong opposition. But when reporters pushed him for a firm answer, he admitted that under some circumstances a bill raising taxes may come up.

However, two rural Democrats did not see the sense in pushing a tax increase.

Senators LeRoy Stumpf of Plummer and Dan Skogen of Hewitt said Pawlenty's anti-tax attitude means lawmakers would waste their time talking more taxes.

Stumpf, chairman of the Senate's education funding committee, said the recession may have made cutting state programs easier.

"People's expectations are lessened by going through a tough time," he said, so Minnesotans may not mind budget cuts now as much as when the economy is good.

If Pawlenty continues to insist on no new taxes, his administration needs to make some changes, Stumpf said.

For instance, the Pollution Control Agency is insisting on enacting stricter septic system rules at a time when the public can least afford it, Stumpf said, adding that would be much like raising taxes.

Skogen suggested doing like California did when it dealt with its own budget crisis: Delay expensive rules such as the septic proposal until times are better.

Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, listened to Stumpf and Skogen say new taxes are out, enjoying every minute.

"I don't think the public is going to go along with that," he said about raising taxes. "We have to live within our means."