Democrats bicker, Minnesota tax cuts still waiting for action

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Gov. Mark Dayton said on Tuesday he was "very, very, very disappointed" the Legislature has not yet delivered a tax cut bill to his desk, the Star Tribune reports. He blamed the lack of action on an impasse between House and Senate leaders over plans to construct a new $90 million Senate office building and parking ramp.

Both houses of the Legislature are controlled by Democrats. The House has already approved a tax cut plan, but the Senate has not. In his first public appearance since undergoing hip surgery five weeks ago, Dayton forcefully demanded that the Legislature reach a deal on the tax cuts by the end of the week, the Associated Press reports.

"It's just inexcusable, and I'm very, very disappointed that we're at this impasse at this stage," Dayton said.

Dayton said he thinks Senate Democrats haven't acted on the tax bill because House Democrats have not yet approved the new Senate office building. The House must sign off on the project before construction can begin.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the Senate will likely take up the tax cut measure on Thursday. He has previously denied he was holding up action on the tax bill because of the office building question. But he said he's not sure why the House won't approve it, MPR News reports.

Bakk has said the $90 million project, which includes a $27 million parking garage, is needed because renovation of the State Capitol will force the Senate to move out of the building, and once completed, the Capitol will have fewer offices available for the Senate, according to MPR.

Some critics say the building plan is extravagant and too expensive, and Gov. Dayton has said the same, according to MPR.

The Senate's $434 million tax measure is about $70 million less than the plan approved in the House earlier this month. And it also sets aside $150 million toward state budget reserves, which the House hasn't done. If the House doesn't accept the Senate changes, the two houses would need to negotiate a compromise, and that could push final action to next week, the Associated Press reports.

The timing of the tax cut approval is important, because Dayton wants taxpayers to take advantage of the changes when they file their 2013 taxes. Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said if the tax changes don't become law by the end of this week, his department won't have enough time to make sure they can be applied before the April 15 tax filing deadline, according to the Associated Press.

The tax cuts are possible because the state budget is expected to have a $1.2 billion surplus over the next two years, according to the latest forecast.

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