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Minnesota House tax vote comes today

ST. PAUL -- Today is tax day in the Minnesota House. Observers expect a long debate, perhaps stretching well into the night, when Democrats who control the House bring their tax bill to the floor. The tax bill's highlight is adding a higher-rate ...

ST. PAUL -- Today is tax day in the Minnesota House.

Observers expect a long debate, perhaps stretching well into the night, when Democrats who control the House bring their tax bill to the floor.

The tax bill's highlight is adding a higher-rate income tax bracket for Minnesota couples who earn at least $400,000 a year. The $433 million from the new tax would lower property taxes for all Minnesota homeowners.

On Thursday, Republicans offered a preview of today's debate when they made a second failed attempt to get full House consideration of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's tax proposals.

Rep. Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, touted one-time property tax rebates in the GOP plan. It is not in the DFL proposal.

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"It's your last chance for property tax relief for this year," Sviggum warned.

Like a similar effort a day earlier, the attempt was rejected 83-49.

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, who leads the House Property Tax Division, said the Republican governor's plan does not give property tax relief and reminds him of a car mechanic who says: "I couldn't fix your brakes so I made your horn louder."

Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said he would like to appoint negotiators to begin working out differences between House and Senate tax plans as soon as possible.

Senators approved tax increases twice that of the House.

Stumpf looks good

Sen. LeRoy Stumpf is supposed to be co-chairman of a House-Senate conference committee determining public school funding.

However, the Plummer DFLer is on the sidelines - and away from the Legislature - awaiting an early-May heart bypass operation.

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"He looked like his own strong self," Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, told the conference committee on Thursday.

The education panel discussed differences in school funding bills the House and Senate already have passed, at times invoking Stumpf's name.

E-85 rally

Supporters of the E-85 ethanol-based fuel rally this morning at the Capitol.

"We need to make this home-grown, affordable, low-carbon, renewable alternative to gasoline much more available and convenient for Minnesotans to find and use in their flex-fuel vehicles," said Mike Bull, assistant Commerce Department commissioner.

Pawlenty and legislative leaders are scheduled to address the rally.

Bills legislators are considering this year include those to increase state aid so stations to may install E-85 pumps. Minnesota already leads the country in the number of the pumps.

E-85 is a fuel made from 85 percent ethanol - mostly made from corn - and 15 percent gasoline.

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Bonding due

A compromise public works funding bill is expected to pass the House and Senate today, sending it to Pawlenty.

The measure, known as the bonding bill, would spend about $300 million on projects ranging from a Duluth Entertainment Convention Center expansion to fixing higher education buildings. A House-Senate conference committee on Wednesday approved the measure.

Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said while the bill would spend more than either chamber's original bill, conference committee members trimmed about $6 million from each measure.

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