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Dayton tax plan votes set stage

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ST. PAUL -- Republicans are using legislative votes against Gov. Mark Dayton's tax proposal as evidence it has little support.

However, Dayton and other Democrats called the Thursday votes a charade. Republicans put the tax plan in front of the House and Senate, but opposed it in an effort to get Democrats to vote against the measure.

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"Recess is over," Dayton said to lawmakers, recalling his time as a teacher. "It's time to stop playing games and get back to work."

Dayton called the Republican actions "juvenile."

"I'm glad people are having fun," Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said sarcastically. "I hope some of your relatives are watching."

In a Dayton letter to Bakk, the governor said that his budget proposal is not ready for a vote, given the fact that a new revenue projection was just released Monday. He called the GOP action "juvenile political theater" and asked all legislators to vote against the tax plan offered Thursday.

"I call upon the legislative majority to stop playing games and get down to the serious work of preparing and passing their own budget proposal," Dayton wrote.

The governor delivered his original budget, as required, on Feb. 15. He updated it Monday afternoon following the revenue forecast release. Republicans say they will produce a budget outline in a week and a full budget should be passed by most committees on March 25.

Senators defeated the tax plan 63-1 and the House 131-0.

Only Sen. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, voted for the Dayton taxes, although many Democrats said they support the concept of Dayton's tax increases on the richest 5 percent of Minnesotans.

"It it obviously a game," Tomassoni said of the GOP move to bring up the tax plan.

The tax increase is just part of the Dayton budget plan, DFLers said, and part of the budget should not be considered by itself.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said other states "won't do this to their businesses," adding that the "appetite for government that needs to be removed and reduced."

Since many business owners pay business taxes through their individual income tax returns, Republicans say higher taxes for the rich like Dayton wants also hurt businesses.

"Small business owners are the last to get paid," Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said.

Although Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said he offered the tax plan "as a courtesy" to Democrats, the tactic Republicans used Thursday is common: A bill is brought up before it goes through the normal committee process to force a vote that could make governor's proposal look bad.

Democrats at times used the same tactic against GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

"We need to get going on the budget, so we want to get a sense of the Senate, a Senate position on the governor's tax plan," Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said.

Moments after the tax plan went down, Republicans tweeted that the Dayton plan sustained a bipartisan defeat. That soon was followed by a state Republican Party news release headlined: "Dayton's massive tax hikes voted down in bipartisan vote."

Republicans said the tax plan would hurt Minnesota businesses.

"Gov Dayton's tax increase will penalize the exact people who we need to help us grow out of the recession," Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, said. "Minnesota will become a high-tax island and that will make us even less competitive with our neighbors."

In her northwestern Minnesota area, she said, North Dakota would benefit from higher Minnesota taxes: "We will see that North Dakota has grown their economy while those communities on the east side of the Red River have remained stagnant."

Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, said the Thief River Falls-based Digi-Key manufacturer has "some very difficult decisions to make for the future." As Digi-Key looks to expand, Fabian said, a good tax climate is important.

Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, said higher taxes would drive down home values at a time when they already are low.

Dayton's plan would require couples who earn $200,000 annually to pay 10.95 percent in income taxes. Just two other states have higher rates.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

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Pioneer staff reports
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