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Talks set to deal with special session details

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ST. PAUL — Legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton plan a late-afternoon meeting today to work out details about a probable special session that could appropriate money for disaster relief and, perhaps, overturn a tax or two.

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Dayton said he hopes the five can at least agree on the date of a special session, which he proposes to be Sept. 9. He said he would love an agreement that legislators will only consider the disaster and overturning a farm implement repair tax.

The Democratic governor said Republicans who want another tax killed have had six weeks to propose how to replace money it would raise. However, he said, he has heard no specific GOP proposal.

The special session originally was just to approve spending less than $5 million to help repay local governments for work they did dealing with June 20-26 storms and flooding. Eighteen counties have been declared federal disaster areas and Washington will fund much of the recovery, but the state needs to pitch in some money.

Last week, Dayton said he also would like to get rid of a sales tax on farm equipment repair that costs farmers $2 million a month. He said the state has enough money to absorb that revenue loss.

The governor also wants to refund money farmers paid since the tax began on July 1.

However, the $95 million-a-year tax on goods stored in warehouses is more than the state can afford, he said. That tax, due to begin in April, upsets Republicans, who say it is forcing many businesses to delay expansion plans or to look to other states.

Most Democrats and Republicans agree the warehousing tax should be eliminated, but Democrats say that can happen when legislators return to regular session on Feb. 25.

Both taxes were enacted in May after they were inserted by the Democratic-controlled Legislature at the last minute into a tax bill, which Dayton signed.

Like other governors before him, Dayton insists that all four legislative leaders join him in signing an agreement spelling out specifically what would be allowed to come up during a special session. If all four legislative leaders do not sign the agreement, Dayton said that he will not call the session.

"We are not going to have a special session that is open ended," Dayton told reporters after a Thursday event at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension event.

Only the governor can call a special session, but once it begins he has no control over what is brought up.

Dayton said the House alone estimates it will cost $23,000 a day to bring its members back to St. Paul. His goal is for a one-day session.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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