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MN Senate passes benefits bill for laid off miners – without disputed tax break

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The Minnesota Senate passed a bill to extend benefits to laid-off Iron Range workers – and it does not include a tax break for businesses that led to a heated, hours-long debate by lawmakers in the Minnesota House earlier this week.

The DFL-controlled Senate voted 62-3 Thursday to pass SF 2275, which would extend unemployment benefits by 26 weeks for nearly 2,000 Iron Range workers.

But this Senate bill doesn't include an amendment the Republican-controlled House bill has, which (in addition to extending benefits) would reduce the taxes Minnesota businesses pay into the unemployment insurance trust fund.

Democrats in the House took issue with the tax break and asked for a "clean" unemployment extension bill. But Republicans supported keeping the tax cut amendment because they didn't see the point in delaying a vote on it – noting Democrats had previously supported similar cuts to unemployment trust funds.

The disagreement over the tax break amendment kept the House from voting on the mine workers' benefits extension earlier this week, and it was instead sent to a committee.

The passage of the "clean" Senate bill could set up some conflict when the House takes up the proposal again. (Both the Senate and House have to pass the exact same bill before it can go to the governor's desk to be signed into law.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says he is working with House Speaker Kurt Daudt on a deal to extend benefits to workers with a vow to pass a tax cut in the near future, The Associated Press says.

Both Republicans and Democrats had agreed it was important to extend unemployment benefits to iron ore workers as early in the session as possible.

Party leaders had actually discussed extending Iron Range workers' benefits back when there was talk of a special session – and that's when the proposed business tax cuts first were brought up, something Gov. Mark Dayton said at the time he wouldn't agree to.

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