ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The final 12 hours of the Minnesota Legislature’s 2016 session began Sunday with lawmakers needing to finalize plans for a $900 million budget surplus, though it was unclear how the mix of tax cuts, extra spending and road and bridge repairs would come together.
Lawmakers face a midnight Sunday deadline to pass bills, and will likely work up to that point. The Republican-controlled House made the first move on a major piece of legislation, passing 123-10 with overwhelming bipartisan support a $260 million package that would extend property tax relief to farmers and businesses, expand tax credits to parents with childcare costs and create a credit for college graduates with loan debt.READ MORE: Rally, Celebration Being Held On What Would Have Been Daunte Wright's 21st Birthday
“This is a historic day with what we’re doing here. This is wonderful reform for middle-class Minnesotans,” said Rep. Greg Davids, a Republican member from Preston who chairs the tax committee.
Legislative leaders from the House and Democrat-led Senate worked throughout the weekend to reach deals on the extra spending measures that Gov. Mark Dayton said were essential to gaining his support of a tax bill. Those plans call to spend $25 million toward a statewide voluntary preschool program, which Dayton has deemed a “nonnegotiable” priority, and an extra $35 million for boosting broadband Internet infrastructure into rural Minnesota.
It was unclear whether those spending agreements were enough to satisfy the Democratic governor. Dayton’s office has said he’d withhold comment until more details about the spending packages came into focus.
With some tentative spending agreements in place, lawmakers turned their attention to two critical pieces of unfinished work: A major transportation funding mechanism and a package of public construction projects funded through borrowing.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt said he and Senate leaders were still in talks Sunday afternoon to find a compromise on funding hundreds of millions of dollars in annual transportation fixes.READ MORE: Gov. Walz, Former Gov. Pawlenty To Receive COVID-19 Boosters Tuesday
“I’m confident that we’re going to do something,” the speaker said. “I’m not sure what it is yet, and I’m not sure that it’s going to be exactly what everybody wants.” Daudt wouldn’t discuss any details of what was on the table, including whether the GOP’s own proposal to increase license tab fees was still an option.
A bonding bill full of public works projects across Minnesota appeared poised for a late resolution, as negotiators waited to see whether a transportation deal would materialize and require a slice of borrowing.
The House-passed tax measure saw a handful of Democrats opposed, including Reps. Erin Murphy and Rep. Laurie Halverson, who raised concerns over a handful of reductions on tobacco taxes — including removing the automatic, annual tax hikes on cigarettes and other products that lawmakers approved as part of a major tax increase in 2013.
“I am concerned that the tax cuts in this bill, along with the spending that will come along later, will put us into a deficit situation,” Murphy said.
The Legislature must adjourn by Monday.MORE NEWS: You Can Always Get What You Want? Mick Jagger Has 2 Juicy (Jucy) Lucys Before Concert
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