Dayton, legislative leaders seek session exit strategy

  • Article by: JIM RAGSDALE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 17, 2012 - 9:31 PM

With an eye on the calendar and fresh memories of last year's state shutdown, both sides are looking at tax breaks, job creation.

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Gov. Mark Dayton

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Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders began an intensive search for end-of-session agreements on Tuesday, hoping they can find enough common ground to finish the 2012 session without the historic rancor of 2011.

The DFL governor and Republican legislative leaders held three meetings during the day on such meat-and-potatoes issues as tax policy and capital projects.

"They're all just trying to find an exit strategy for the session that works for everybody, provides jobs and tax cuts for small businesses, and allows everybody to end the session feeling good about it," said Dayton spokesman Bob Hume.

Dayton met with House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove; Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester; and the tax committee chairs, Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, and Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen.

The leaders discussed the types of tax relief that could stimulate employment, Hume said. "The whole reason to have these meetings to begin with is we'd very much like to find a compromise that works for everybody," Hume said.

Last year, the two sides couldn't agree on a budget solution and needed a special session and a 20-day partial state shutdown to finish their work.

This year, in which all legislators face re-election, leaders have said they would like to be done by the end of April, even though they could continue up to a May 21 deadline.

The GOP-controlled Legislature has proposals that include cuts in property taxes for businesses and in income taxes for married couples. Ortman said the focus in talks "is on what we can do to stimulate business," including investment tax credits and exemptions for research and development. "I think the governor is looking at them favorably," she said.

Some of the Republican plans involve spending some of the newly replenished state reserve funds, which Dayton shot down on Tuesday. "I will not agree to raiding the reserve funds for any purpose," he said. He added that tax changes should not have "consequences for the next biennium," when the state is already projected to have a deficit of more than $1 billion.

The debate over spending on capital projects is another end-of-session marker. Both houses are working independently on bills, and the critical issue is how much the state will borrow.

Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042

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