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 -- One of the big days of the Minnesota legislative session arrives Thursday, when state fiscal leaders announce how state revenues and spending are doing. The budget forecast, released twice a year, tells legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton how much the state has to spend or, most often in recent years, how big a deficit they face. The November forecast showed a $1.1 billion deficit. Dayton released his budget on Jan.
ST. PAUL -- Adding money to early childhood education and all-day kindergarten programs, as Gov. Mark Dayton suggests, is important to Minnesota's future, the state House education finance leader says. "Those two programs really pay dividends into the future," Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said Tuesday before he presented the Dayton budget proposal to his committee. Dayton's $15.5 billion two-year education budget proposal would be about $1 billion more than for two years ending June 30.
ST. PAUL -- More than 35,000 low-income Minnesotans would gain health-care coverage under a bill the House approved Monday. Representative Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said the federal government would pick up most of the cost under a new health-care law. "The net savings to the state budget are $129 million in the first biennium and $237 million in the second biennium," Huntley said. Minnesota doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers would get $1.8 billion more in the next two years and $2.5 billion in the following two years if the bill passes, Huntley said.
ST. PAUL -- Gun week in the Minnesota Legislature came and went, but the debate is far from over. A former law enforcement officer, now a senator, pledges to continue the fight against weakening gun freedoms. "As a former sheriff and current state senator, I was sworn to uphold the Constitution of the state of Minnesota and the United States," Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, wrote in a letter to the editor. "I take this oath seriously.
ST. PAUL -- Income tax returns Minnesotans file this spring will conform to new federal laws if state senators follow the House's Monday action. The House voted 127-0 to change state law to match newly enacted federal tax legislation, saving taxes for 55,000 teachers, 90,000 homeowners, 60,000 students and 32,000 small business owners. Supporters say it will save Minnesotans $18.5 million. The new federal law established deductions that are not allowed under Minnesota law.
ST. PAUL -- So-called assault weapons are nothing more than fancy hunting rifles, gun supporters told a Minnesota House committee Wednesday. A federal ban on the guns that expired in 2004 did not work, Chris Rager of the National Rifle Association told the House public safety committee.
ST. PAUL -- As many as 192,000 Minnesotans would benefit if state legislators quickly pass a bill matching state tax law with federal law, the state House Taxes Committee chairwoman says. If that does not happen, Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, told fellow lawmakers Monday: "You can imagine that you will have a lot of constituents that will not be happy." The issue, known as "tax conformity," arose after Congress and the president agreed on tax law changes late in December.
ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal continues to play out in interesting ways, usually with Republicans strongly opposed and Democrats more mildly in support. Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, told a top Dayton official that the budget, especially the tax increase portions, "makes it more difficult to compete" with states nearby where governors are trying to lower taxes. "This budget looks to many of us like a good deal for government," Dean said, but not for business or the average Minnesotan. Rep.
ST. PAUL -- Some Minnesota legislators want to raise the tax on "little cigars," saying the products cost less than cigarettes and they can be flavored as a way to attract children. Senators Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, and Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said little cigars basically are the same as cigarettes, but taxed differently under state law.
ST. PAUL -- Some Minnesota legislators want to raise the tax on "little cigars," saying the products cost less than cigarettes and they can be flavored as a way to attract children. Sens. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, and Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said little cigars basically are the same as cigarettes, but taxed differently under state law.