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Legislative session end still elusive

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ST. PAUL - Minnesota legislators take off Wednesday in hopes they can wrap up their work for the year Thursday.

Legislators missed their self-imposed Monday deadline to adjourn and little progress was made Tuesday on key controversial issues such as funding public works projects and a Vikings stadium.

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The goal of a Thursday adjournment is far from a sure bet, House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said because those debates likely will take a long time, if they even are ready to be debated Thursday.

Making things more complicated was Tuesday's revelation that Dean and other Republican leaders want to modify a proposal to build a Vikings stadium and combine it with a bill to fund public works projects such as building roads and repairing state-owned buildings, including the state Capitol. The projects would be funded by the state selling bonds and repaying them over a period of years.

With Gov. Mark Dayton and other Democratic-Farmer-Labor leaders upset with the new proposal, it was not clear if it has a chance to pass.

Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, was not happy that lawmakers would take off Wednesday and only a few would be involved in drawing up the new stadium-bonding bill. It will not receive a committee hearing that most bills must go through.

"How can we explain that the majority of us have no purpose in the end solution?" Murphy asked Republicans.

"I think I am going to stay around..." she added. "I hope I will be consulted."

Dean said that staff members were working on finishing the bonding-stadium proposal, but could not promise it will be ready when the House returns at noon Thursday.

Republicans tend to oppose spending as much for public works projects as Democrats want, and the stadium has supporters and opponents in both parties.

The third major issue passed the House 73-57 Tuesday. The Senate is expected to debate the bill Thursday, but the tax-relief proposal is expected to receive a Dayton veto because it would draw from the state budget reserves to offset tax cuts.

The GOP-written plan would provide tax relief by freezing state business property taxes.

House Tax Committee Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, said the tax plan would creates jobs.

"I think we've put together a very, very good bill that will move Minnesota forward in the areas of job creation and tax relief for Minnesotans," Davids said.

DFL lawmakers were critical of the bill.

"It puts the wealthy corporations in the front of the line before the middle class, our senior citizens, our farmers and our students," Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said.

The bill would continue the market value homestead exclusion, a program created last year after lawmakers eliminated the market value homestead credit.

"The relief is not there for rural Minnesota," Marquart said, adding those property owners were hit hard by the change.

"I have heard from many homeowners and farmers that saw their property taxes skyrocket," Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, said.

Local Government Aid levels would be kept at the 2012 amount, which was the same as 2010, for cities with a population of 5,000 or more.

The bill also would expand investor tax credits for those helping startup businesses and aims to develop a plan to promote the angel tax credit in greater Minnesota.

While lawmakers debated the major remaining bills, Dayton continued to consider bills already sent to him. Among those he signed Tuesday was one to spend almost $100 million from sales taxes that voters increased in 2008 for outdoors and arts projects.

Among items in the so-called legacy is $12.5 million to fight invasive species, $15 million for forests, $31 million for wetlands and $28 million for habitat work.

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Pioneer staff reports
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