- Associated Press - Friday, February 28, 2014
Police: Girl, 6, died of hypothermia

BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) - Bemidji police say a 6-year-old girl died of hypothermia from exposure to the frigid weather.

Police say the girl’s mother and a neighbor reported a medical emergency at an apartment building early Thursday. Law officers and emergency medical personnel found the girl inside the building’s front entrance.

Authorities say the girl had signs of being exposed to the frigid weather. She was dead at the scene.

The girl’s body was taken to the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office, which confirmed she died of hypothermia.

Authorities have not completed notifying relatives, so the girl’s name has not been released.

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State’s property taxes mostly static after refunds

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota property taxes owed this year are mostly static once refunds and credits are factored in, state officials said Friday, despite their earlier prediction that those taxes would drop considerably.

A Department of Revenue analysis shows a net $8 million drop in a property tax system that generates $8 billion a year. That means the reduction is a slim 0.1 percent.

Here’s where it gets complicated: Homeowners and businesses will pay a total of $125 million more in 2014 than they did in 2013. But $133 million in the new property tax refunds and credits will cancel out some increases for those who qualify.

Income-based refunds aren’t automatic. Last year, slightly more than half of homeowners got a property tax refund. The average refund for those 341,000 homeowners was $796, according to the department. About half of renters also qualified for refunds averaging $592.

“A refund is a refund. It is actual money,” Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said in an interview. “The simple fact is property taxes statewide have gone down for the first time in over a decade. Those are the facts. There’s no cooking the books.”

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$1.2B surplus estimate to feed session appetites

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A bullish budget forecast showing a $1.233 billion surplus added steam Friday to a bipartisan push for tax relief, but also sparked a “bidding war” over how much taxpayers will get back.

Money available for lawmakers to disperse grew by 50 percent from the last forecast a few months ago, according to a much-anticipated report by the Department of Minnesota Management and Budget. It’s the last one to be provided before November’s election, and will guide session decisions.

Majority House Democrats immediately ratcheted up calls for swift passage of a $500 million package of tax cuts and repeals in this election-year session, a position also embraced by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

“There’s enough room there for a very significant tax cut,” Dayton said in a conference call with reporters. He added, “this is going to get into a tax cut bidding war and everyone is going to try to top everyone else.”

Meanwhile, Republicans, who are a minority in both chambers, launched a bumper-sticker ready “Give It Back” campaign that calls for returning the full amount to taxpayers. They invited people to suggest the best method for a rebate.

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Minn. Republicans on $1.2B surplus: “give it back”

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Republican leaders in the Minnesota Legislature say the $1.2 billion budget surplus is no cause for celebration because it shows state government overtaxes its citizens.

Republicans unveiled their response Friday to news of the enhanced surplus: “Give it back.” They say they want to gather opinions from Minnesotans about the best way to rebate the surplus.

The Legislature’s Democratic majority is likely to pass a mix of tax cuts, spending and deposits into a rainy-day fund. But Republican leaders say it should all go back to taxpayers.

However, Senate Republican Leader David Hann says the GOP is likely to support one spending proposal. That’s the bipartisan plan to provide about $85 million in additional state funds to help boost pay for long-term care workers.

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