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Dayton budget gets first hearing, spending cuts revised downward

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The House Ways and Means Committee became the first of several panels to scrutinize Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal Monday.

Under questioning from Republicans, Dayton's budget commissioner clarified the spending cuts contained in the $36 billion budget plan. Jim Schowalter says the $225 million listed as cuts includes some money that is reallocated, rather than cut. That brings the actual cuts down to $167 million.

Schowalter also testified that the governor was initially reluctant to include an increase in the cigarette tax. But he was convinced by health officials who assured him the move would reduce state expenditures on health care. Dayton's proposal to raise the tax on cigarettes by 94 cents a pack would give Minnesota the eighth highest tax among the states.

Several more committees will hold hearings on Dayton's budget plan, including both the House and Senate tax committees on Tuesday.

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