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Budget bills prepared for floor votes

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, State budgets Updated: May 19, 2013 - 1:50 AM

With hugs and applause, the joint House-Senate panel ironing out the Legislature's final tax deal finished its work shortly before midnight Saturday.

The deal includes tax increases on couples making more than $250,000 and singles making more than $150,000 in taxable income; a hefty cigarette tax increase; state spending to spruce up Rochester, a top Mayo Clinic priority; and, a little bit of money to explore the possibility of a new state office building. It also includes a one-year cap on local government levy increases.

The panel dealing with transportation issues also wrapped up and the one considering state government issues finished up their work around 1 a.m.

Those measures will not include what had been among their most controversial provisions. In the transportation measure, lawmakers considered but did not include either a gas tax increase or a metro sales tax; and the final state government bill will not include salary increases for lawmakers.

With all the budget committees finishing their work, lawmakers still had miles to go for a timely finish by Monday at midnight. The full House and Senate still need to pass the three budget measures to complete their work.

Some of the deadline pressure showed up among tired lawmakers, anxious to complete the task of approving Minnesota's next two year budget.

As the tax panel was concluding, Bakk, DFL-Cook, and House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, appeared in the august committee room, causing a bit of a stir.

As the committee turned to look at Bakk, he joked: "It's the guy that's saying wrap it up already."

"All these people want to go home," Bakk said with a smile.

A few moments later, House Speaker Paul Thissen added his own joking instruction: "Vote!"

As of 1 a.m. Sunday, the House was still debating an education funding measure, which would pay for all day kindergarten statewide. The Senate is expected to take that measure up on Sunday around 1 p.m.  And both the House and Senate still needed to approve the tax, transportation and state government measures.

Legislative leaders were also hoping to revive a measure to fund state capital projects. Those bonding bills require a supermajority and on Friday an $800 million borrowing bill failed to reach that bar in the House.

Bakk said he hoped and Thissen hoped to meet with Republican leaders on Sunday to see if they can reach an agreement on a slimmed down borrowing bill that could win Republican votes.

Meanwhile, if the legislative leaders had a deal on approving a minimum wage -- a top DFL priority that fell to the side when DFLers in the House and Senate could not agree on how much to hike the wage floor -- they did not let on.

"I would never say anything's over. But I have not had any discussions today about it," Thissen said late Saturday. The House passed a wage hike that would bring the minimum to $9.50 an hour.

Bakk said that's too much for the Senate, which passed a minimum wage hike to $7.75 an hour.

"Eight dollars is the authority that the caucus gave me that I can go to. I know I have 34 votes for eight," Bakk said.

 

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