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Session 2004

Session 2004: Finance and Taxes



ISSUE UPDATE
Gov. Tim Pawlenty sidestepped the Legislature Thursday to erase about 60 percent of a $160 million budget deficit himself. His $97 million fix left lawmakers with just $63 million to deal with, but they couldn't agree and now Pawlenty will likely have to dig deeper into agency budgets. Pawlenty redirected $80 million in federal dollars to deficit reduction instead of letting it flow into a fund that supports Minnesota's insurance program for low-income families. He also sliced 3 percent from state agency budgets, which yields $17 million in savings. In the big picture the budget deficit is small compared to the state's $28 billion two-year budget. Plus, it doesn't technically have to be fixed until next year.

Republican and DFL legislative leaders held the first in a series of statewide debates Wednesday in an effort to influence the make-up of the state House next year. Currently, the GOP holds a comfortable 81-53 seat majority in the House. But Democrats say they're eager to trim that lead or even recapture the majority. The election outcome will be a key factor in how the state addresses a potential budget shortfall of up to $1 billion. (09/01/2004)
Mayors from across Minnesota say time is running out for Gov. Tim Pawlenty and lawmakers to correct an error that's left most cities guessing about how much state aid they'll receive next year. A technical glitch has created confusion over how to interpret the aid law -- and city officials say that could lead to budget headaches and unnecessary property tax hikes. Lawmakers and the governor all agreed the law is defective -- but disagree over how and when to call a special session to fix the problem. (07/14/2004)
If you're a hunter, you got a new season for mourning doves. If you're a state trooper, you got a tougher drunken driving standard, starting in summer '05. If you're a student in kindergarten through high school, you got new science and social studies standards. If you're Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke, you got a pink slip. Otherwise, if you slept through the last four months, you didn't miss much. (05/17/2004)
Four days before the end of the legislative session, Gov. Pawlenty has used his executive authority to erase nearly $100 million of the state's budget deficit. Legislative leaders have been at a standstill over how to close a projected $160 million. Pawlenty and Republican leaders have a plan for taking care of the rest, but DFL leaders are demanding public hearings on the budget. If they can't agree on a solution, many organizations that rely on state funding are worried. (05/13/2004)
The Senate passed a tax bill on Thursday that returns $60 million in state payments to towns and cities that lost more than twice that amount as part of last session's budget-balancing law. The issue tapped into a well of resentment felt by many rural lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats. (04/29/2004)
State tax officials have recently noticed a curious trend: corporate profits are up, but corporate tax payments are down. Democrats in the Minnesota Senate say there's a simple reason. Minnesota businesses, they argue, are exploiting loopholes to duck paying their fair share of taxes. But Republicans and the business community say one person's loophole is another's legitimate tax deduction. (04/22/2004)
On the eve of the April 15 income tax deadline, state Democratic lawmakers tried to cast rising property tax bills as a more accurate indication of how Minnesotans' obligations to government have changed. (04/14/2004)
The Minnesota Senate completed work on a budget package in a marathon floor session that began Wednesday morning and ended early Thursday. The plan arrived in two pieces: one that erases a $160 million projected deficit and a second that provides more than $40 million for a wide spectrum of new or restored initiatives. The Republican minority criticized DFLers for loading their new spending and policy changes into one comprehensive plan, arguing the process overwhelmed any chance for careful consideration or debate. (04/08/2004)
Taking a cue from Donald Trump, Senate Democrats came out with a budget plan Friday that would have a few dozen state agency managers hearing "You're fired!" (04/02/2004)
Eight months before they stand for re-election, the Republicans who control the Minnesota House are working on their plan to resolve the latest state budget shortfall. Gov. Pawlenty has already released his plan to fill in the $160 million gap. It includes cuts to nursing homes, hospitals and pharmacies. The Republicans say they have a proposal to avoid those cuts, but some DFLers at the Capitol say the plan still unfairly hits welfare recipients. (03/24/2004)
House Republican leaders have released the outline of their budget plan. It relies on money from a casino at the Canterbury Park racetrack to balance the state budget. House Republicans say they went along with most of Gov. Pawlenty's budget recommendations. But the plan they released has some holes that Republican leaders say they'll fill in later. (03/17/2004)
For the second straight year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty is looking to health and welfare programs for the cash to fill the largest holes in his budget. But hospital officials and advocates for the poor told senators on Wednesday his latest proposal would weaken their programs to the breaking point. (03/17/2004)
Lawmakers have had a week to digest Gov. Tim Pawlenty's $160 million deficit-reduction plan, but few seem inclined to endorse it. Republican and Democratic lawmakers are finding it difficult to accept the governor's reductions in health care spending, and both sides of the aisle are floating alternative concepts. But Pawlenty, in turn, is unlikely to approve of what's percolating at the Legislature. (03/12/2004)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Thursday he won't call for expanded casino gambling or use money from a state reserve account to balance the state budget. (03/04/2004)
State officials say Minnesota's budget outlook shows a slight improvement from last fall. The latest revenue forecast shows a projected $160 million deficit through June 2005. That's a smaller deficit than many lawmakers had predicted, but plugging the budget hole may still prove contentious. (02/27/2004)