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ST. PAUL - Nursing homes and a flush health care account are at the center of a legislative debate over health care spending as Gov. Tim Pawlenty and lawmakers look for ways to solve a projected state budget deficit. As part of his plan to erase an estimated $935 million deficit, Pawlenty proposed cutting $187 million from health and human services spending and using another $250 million from the so-called Health Care Access Fund to shore up the state's coffers. Long-term care advocates and some lawmakers seized on a provision affecting nursing home funding in Pawlenty's plan.
House Democrats said today they have a plan to give K-12 schools more money this year -- despite the projected $935 million state budget deficit. Education Chairwoman Mindy Greiling unveiled a school finance bill, the highlight being a proposal to bump up state aid by 1 percent, providing schools with another $51 per child for operating expenses. "In no way is this a comprehensive education funding bill -- rather it's emergency relief for schools that are hurting," said Greiling, DFL-Roseville. The proposal likely will have at least one significant critic: Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
ST. PAUL -- Motorists would be prohibited from sending text messages while driving and Minnesota's school bus laws may be strengthened as lawmakers look for ways to make traveling the state's roads safer. Now that legislators put a $6.6 billion transportation spending plan into law, they have shifted their attention from highway funding to other transportation issues. A bundle of transportation issues were left on the table at the end of the 2007 session. Lawmakers said they will make minor changes to that package and pass it this spring.
Transportation proposals Minnesota lawmakers are considering passing this year include: -- Making seat belt use a primary law, meaning law enforcement could stop a driver for failing to wear a seat belt. -- Requiring more training and background checks for drivers of school vans and other smaller vehicles. -- Prohibiting the reading, sending or receiving of electronic messages - including e-mails and text messages - on mobile phones while driving. -- Allowing the registered owner of an impounded vehicle to retrieve personal items from the vehicle at the impound lot.
ST. PAUL -- Student tuition should not be increased to soften the blow of budget cuts to Minnesota colleges and universities, a top lawmaker and higher education leaders said. University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities officials said Wednesday that raising tuition to make up for proposed cuts in state spending is their least-preferred option, but they also did not rule out tuition hikes. Gov. Tim Pawlenty last week proposed more than $50 million in higher education cuts as part of his plan to plug an estimated $938 million state budget deficit.
ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants legislators to approve a plan transferring land in a northeastern Minnesota state park for a new state veterans' cemetery. Pawlenty on Tuesday proposed using 60 acres in Jay Cooke State Park south of Duluth to construct Minnesota's second veterans' cemetery. The parcel in the 8,781-acre park would be transferred from the state Department of Natural Resources to the Veterans Affairs Department. Pawlenty said there is a lack of access to military veterans' cemeteries in northern Minnesota, as the state has an aging and growing population of veterans.
As part of his plan to erase the predicted $935 million state budget deficit, Gov.
ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes a mixture of state spending cuts, use of reserve funds and some additional tax revenue to fix a predicted state budget deficit of nearly $1 billion. The Republican governor said Friday school classrooms and state aid to local governments would be spared from reductions under his plan, but health care, higher education and other programs would lose some funding. Minnesota and the country face tough economic challenges, Pawlenty said.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota income taxpayers and military veterans could benefit from a tax bill lawmakers passed Thursday and rushed to Gov. Tim Pawlenty for his approval. The bill puts Minnesota in line with new federal tax policies and includes other measures that were part of a larger, controversial tax package Pawlenty vetoed last year. DFLers, who control the Legislature, said it was important to get the bill to Republican Pawlenty as soon as possible.