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How Much Tax Relief?
by Martin Kaste
January 27, 2000
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Democrats at the state Capitol say Governor Ventura and House Republicans are going too far in opposite directions; they say Republicans are cutting taxes too much, and Ventura is spending too little, especially on rural Minnesota. DFLers announced out their own legislative priorities, emphasizing tax relief targeted on lower-income Minnesotans, families, and more spending on areas such as education.

House Majority Leader Tom Pugh and the other DFL leaders are pledging another increase in state aid for local schools, although they won't say yet how much.
A LOT OF THE RHETORIC at the state Capitol lately has been "anti-spending." Governor Ventura says he's opposed in principle to adding to the two-year budget passed last year. He also wants to hold down the regular even-year bonding bill to less than half the size it could be. House Republicans are similarly opposed to spending money, except for the $400 million they've proposed for highways and bridges, many of which are intended for the electoral battle zones in the Twin Cities suburbs.

Only the Democrats are unabashed in their desire to spend this year, but they prefer to call it "investing."
Pugh: We have discovered that there are some crises in Minnesota that must be addressed.
Tom Pugh, the minority leader in the House and the man leading the DFL effort to take back that chamber in 2000, says Democrats will focus on the parts of the state that seem to have missed out on the economic boom times.
Pugh: One example relates to education. We've discovered that in Minnesota there are 423 trailers being used as temporary classrooms, temporary classrooms, for the children of this state. We've also discovered that our children are using text books that they must share, oftentimes text books that are outdated.
Pugh and the other DFL leaders are pledging another increase in state aid for local schools, although they won't say yet how much. The Legislature already approved a big jump in school aid last year, and critics say much of that money went to increase teachers salaries, instead of improving facilities or buying textbooks.

The Democrats say they share the Republicans' desire for more tax relief this year, they just don't like the way the Republican tax cuts consume most of the state's current budget surplus. Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe says DFLers are looking for what he calls "balance," between rich and poor, as well as rural and metropolitan Minnesota.
Moe: The last thing we want is a two-economy state. I think we're in this together, as a family, and that's part of our role, to recognize that.
The DFL plan contains few hard numbers. Moe says he wants to wait to see the next state budget forecast, in February. But DFLers are proposing more concrete legislation in non-fiscal areas, such as new limits on how companies can share customers' personal information, new, pro-consumer regulations on health care insurance companies, and changes to the state's new program to offer senior citizens cheaper prescription drugs.

Senator Moe admits it's an ambitious agenda for what is supposed to be a short legislative session, likely to be dominated by debate over the bonding bill and the governor's unicameral legislature proposal. But Moe doesn't seem very worried about passing the whole DFL agenda before adjournment in April.
Moe: It is aggressive, but it is dated 2000, so I think we have all year to discuss it.
In other words, with a nod to November of 2000, the DFLers are already staking out the platform with which they hope to hold on to the Senate and win back the House.