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DFL stalemate breaks: Minnesota Senate plans action on tax bill

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After a verbal rebuke by Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota DFL Senate leaders jumped into action Wednesday in an effort to pass a massive tax cut package.

The House on March 6 approved a $500 million tax cut bill on a 126-2 vote that offered tax relief to many Minnesota families, and it scrapped several new business taxes.

Dayton had urged quick action in the DFL-controlled Senate. The governor said the bill needed to be on his desk by a Wednesday deadline in order for low- and middle-income Minnesotans to take advantage of roughly $57 million in tax savings in this tax-filing season. (Taxpayers would have to file amended returns later to get the new benefits, the Pioneer Press reports.)

But the Senate didn't seem like it was in an hurry.

Then on Tuesday, Dayton made his first appearance at the Capitol in five weeks since his hip surgery, and hobbling on crutches, blasted his fellow DLFers (video here) for dragging their feet. A visibly irked Dayton said he was "very, very, very disappointed."

Hours later, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, announced that the Senate Tax Committee would promptly take up the measure Wednesday and that the full Senate could approve it as early as Thursday (video here).

The Senate version would offer tax relief to the tune of about $434 million, roughly $70 million less than the House; the House could either approve that version, or a conference committee of leaders from the two chambers could meet to hammer out the differences.

The Pioneer Press details a few of the differences between the two chambers' bills. Both measures would repeal three new business taxes, although the Senate version would not offer refunds to businesses that had already paid the new sales taxes, as the House measure does.

A central issue entangled in the dispute between DFL and Senate leaders was a proposal to build a controversial new $90 million Senate office building and parking ramp, which has become a political football. Senate leaders wanted House approval of the building before they moved forward with the tax bill, but House leaders refused, and Bakk relented on the point.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Senate Republicans say they want to bring Minnesotans permanent sales tax relief by lowering the state sales tax rate from 6.875 percent to 6.375 percent, the Star Tribune reports.

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