The Minnesota House has delivered a dramatic setback to plans for expanded nuclear waste storage at Xcel Energy's Prairie Island nuclear facility. Members voted 99-33 Thursday against the additional storage capacity, leaving the issue in legislative limbo with only four days left in the regular legislative session. Xcel officials say without extra storage space, the plant will need to shut down in 2007. But the House plan quickly unraveled just as it approached a final vote.
The Minnesota Senate on Tuesday approved more than $1 billion in new taxes to ease the state's budget crunch. The measure passed on a 35-to-31 party line vote with Democrats in support. The tax plan also contains funding provisions for K-12 education, and must now be reconciled with the no-new-taxes approach favored by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Republicans.
The Minnesota Senate has approved a plan to increase nuclear waste storage at Xcel Energy's Prairie Island power plant. Early on Tuesday, the Senate voted 42-to-24 for a compromise plan that keeps the facility open for the next 10 years, but preserves legislative oversight of any operation beyond that horizon. The plan also increases investments in renewable energy and codifies an agreement between Xcel and the Prairie Island Indian Community situated adjacent to the facility.
Minnesota House Republicans say they're growing impatient with the slow pace of budget negotiations. With just over a week left before scheduled adjournment, GOP leaders in the House and Democrats who control the Senate remain deeply divided over how to erase a projected $4.2 billion deficit. The fault line lies over the contentious issue of taxes, with Republicans saying they'll stand by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his pledge <i>not</i> to increase state taxes.
Minnesota House Republicans say they've made good on their commitment to hold the line on new taxes. The House voted 70-63 Wednesday to approve a tax bill with no state tax increases. That sets GOP lawmakers up against the DFL-controlled Senate, which is contemplating more than $1 billion in income and cigarette tax hikes. The tax battle will be the key to resolving the overall budget debate.
A new poll shows most Minnesotans favor the direction set by Gov. Tim Pawlenty's no-new-taxes approach to budget-balancing. But the survey -- conducted for Minnesota Public Radio and the St. Paul Pioneer Press -- also shows that when confronted with specific alternatives or tax proposals, significant majorities show a willingness to increase state revenues.
Senate Democrats began discussions Thursday on proposals for more than $1 billion in new taxes over the next two years. DFLers say the extra revenue is necessary to blunt the spending reductions outlined in proposals favored by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Republicans. But Pawlenty says he'll stand by his pledge to reject any new tax increases, and a key DFL lawmaker says it's likely the governor will carry the day.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has released new guidelines for distributing aid payments to cities across Minnesota. Administration officials say the new local government aid formula eliminates historical inequities in state assistance and focuses exclusively on a city's needs and resources. But city representatives say the formula isn't the point. While the distribution of aid may change, they argue the governor is also slashing the total amount of aid across the board, leaving municipal officials with few options.
The Minnesota House has approved a transportation funding bill that injects more than $1 billion in new money for road projects over the next five years. The plan closely mirrors the proposal favored by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But critics say it offers too little new cash. The body also approved spending reductions in the courts and criminal justice system. The two budget bills are the first to pass the House this year.
In the next couple of years, Minnesotans could be paying tolls to use certain metropolitan highway lanes. State and federal lawmakers are considering plans to charge lane fees to relieve congestion and fund new road projects. The proposal is part of a mix of highway development and financing plans announced by Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration and legislators from both parties.
Senate DFLers today are proposing increasing the state gas tax and license tab fees to funnel additional money into road projects and mass transit. The plan amounts to roughly twice the transportation funding favored by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Republicans. It also runs afoul of Pawlenty's pledge not to raise state taxes during his time in office. But supporters say the state's transportation needs demand new revenue, and they say they're hopeful the governor and his GOP allies can be persuaded.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration briefs lawmakers Tuesday on a revised set of English and math standards meant to replace the Profile of Learning. The administration released the updated standards Monday, just as House lawmakers revealed a $12 billion education package that closely follows the governor's spending recommendations.
In a direct challenge to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's
no-new-tax pledge, Senate Democrats on Monday proposed a budget
plan that would raise more than $1 billion from higher income and
The proposal raises the income tax rate on those who earn more
than $250,000 a year and adds $1 to the current 48 cents per-pack
A bill is now on its way to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's desk that would ratify state employment contracts -- without providing benefits to same-sex partners of state workers. The House and Senate voted Thursday to strip those provisions from labor agreements that were initially negotiated in 2001, following a two-week strike.
State lawmakers on Tuesday dealt a significant blow to a proposed metropolitan casino to be operated jointly by the state and northern Indian tribes. The House Government Operations Committee voted 10-8 against the plan, making it unlikely the measure can pass this year. Representatives of the White Earth and Red Lake Indian tribes had stood to gain millions of dollars in gambling revenues from the project. But the state's other tribes viewed the plan as an encroachment on existing casinos.