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Danielle Killey and Don Davis, Published January 10 2013

Minnesota Legislature: Early bills show taxes, education as top priorities

ST. PAUL – Taxes, education funding, constitutional amendments and health care top Minnesota lawmakers’ priorities for the 2013 legislative session, according to some of the first bills introduced.

Most of the early bills are from Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers, who control the House and Senate, and feature topics such as increasing the minimum wage that always are among their prime concerns.

This year’s session, which began Tuesday, will concentrate on drafting the state’s two-year budget, but most work on that will not begin until after Gov. Mark Dayton releases his budget plan Jan. 22.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the budget is the biggest issue for the current session, but there are other topics important to lawmakers as well.

The first four state Senate bills introduced would create a Minnesota health insurance marketplace, provide state funding for voluntary all-day kindergarten in public schools, raise and automatically increase the minimum wage and make it harder for constitutional amendments to be put on the ballot.

Early House bills include a plan to repay money owed to Minnesota schools, changing a property tax credit and providing grants to small businesses.

So far, 20 bills have been introduced in the Senate and 54 in the House. They are a tiny preview of what is to come; lawmakers introduced 6,710 in the last two-year Legislature.

Taxes are popular topics.

One bill proposed this year would remove Minnesota’s long-standing sales tax exception on clothing purchases above $200. Another would tax clothing, but would give a clothing tax credit on Minnesotans’ tax returns.

A measure would remove an income tax exception some foreign companies receive, long a thorn in the side of Democrats. Another idea that often has been discussed now is in a bill to tax Internet sales.

Introducing a bill early gives it little advantage, other than being in the public eye longer than a bill offered later in the session. However, lawmakers take a certain amount of pride in authoring a bill with a low number.

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, has his name among the authors of the first three House bills: beginning to pay back schools, starting a new homestead tax credit to lower property taxes and setting up a program to give grants to small businesses.

Since all three of those bills require money, they could change dramatically after the governor releases his budget plan and lawmakers learn more about the economy.

“We don’t know it will be the final version,” Marquart said.

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