At the Capitol: House OKs big tax cuts, Senate passes school spending bill

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Conference committee season is drawing near at the Minnesota Capitol, but it's not quite here yet.

Eventually, the DFLers who control the Senate and Republicans who lead the House will need to make some compromises to produce a new two-year budget for the state.

On Wednesday, though, each chamber forged ahead with its own priorities, passing bills that leave big gaps to be reconciled by party leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton when session-ending negotiations take place.

Here's a look at what passed Wednesday:

House tax bill

The Republican-controlled House passed a bill that includes more than $2 billion in tax relief.

The GOP dubbed its measure the "Don't Stop Believin' " bill and Rep. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa tells KTTC it's a signal to Minnesotans that the House believes in them and their ability to work hard.

The two biggest parts of the tax bill are a phaseout of the state's business property tax and a one-time income tax exemption.

The $2 billion total exceeds the state's projected budget surplus.

WCCO reports a tax cut of that size is far from what Gov. Mark Dayton considers acceptable, setting up a showdown at the negotiating table.

The DFL leader in the House, Rep. Paul Thissen, tells the station the tax reductions in the GOP bill would require spending cuts by schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.

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A bill making its way through the Senate contains smaller cuts and would put more money into Minnesota's budget reserve.

Senate education plan

In the Senate, Wednesday's focus was on education.

The measure that was approved would increase K-12 education spending by $365 million over the next two years. As the Associated Press notes, that's more than double the increase contained in a bill the House approved over the weekend ... but is only about half the increase Gov. Dayton wants.

Dayton has been pushing to make tuition-free preschool available to all Minnesota 4-year-olds. The House and Senate bills each put much smaller amounts of money into expanding existing programs to make preschool more accessible.

Money for K-12 schools is the biggest piece of Minnesota's budget, comprising more than one-third of the $40 billion the state spends, according to the Pioneer Press.

Transgender athletes

Before approving the education bill, senators rejected a move to essentially repeal a policy the Minnesota High School League recently passed allowing transgender students to compete on girls sports teams.

The House has approved a bill requiring that students use only the locker rooms and bathrooms of their birth gender, but the Senate defeated a similar measure Wednesday.

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