- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014
Minnesota House backs $500M tax-cut bill

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Acting with rare speed, the Minnesota House approved a $500 million package of tax cuts and repeals Thursday in a clear sign of the state’s improved fortunes.

Barely a week into the legislative session, the House voted 126-2 to send it over to the Senate for consideration. The lopsided vote underscored the popularity of tax-cut bills in an election year, as well as the breathing room that comes with a $1.2 billion budget surplus.

Gov. Mark Dayton and many in the Legislature are racing to undo some business sales taxes adopted last year, including one on warehousing services due to kick in April 1. The bill also aligns Minnesota’s tax code more closely with the federal one, making some exemptions and deductions available to state filers. Some of those breaks would be effective for people filing tax returns now.

“This clock is ticking. This is time-sensitive stuff we need to do right now,” said House Taxes Committee Chairwoman Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington.

When fully implemented, hundreds of thousands of income tax filers would face lower tax burdens. The Democratic majority in the Senate hasn’t publicly embraced the House bill, which Dayton supports in concept. The governor said he wants a tax bill to him by March 14 so Revenue Department officials can adjust to the late changes.

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Lawmakers mount new push against Sunday liquor ban

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota lawmakers hoping to lift the state’s decades-old law that forces liquor stores to be closed on Sunday are introducing a range of compromises that would soften the ban, as well as the option to fully repeal it.

A Democratic state senator and Republican representative teamed up Thursday against a ban that’s grown increasingly unpopular with Minnesota consumers, but which has proven tough to repeal. Many small liquor store owners support the Sunday prohibition, saying it would force them to be open a seventh day of the week for competitive reasons while not substantially increasing weekly profits.

The powerful Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association opposes lifting the ban, and over several years the group has successfully encouraged liquor store owners around the state to lobby their legislators against changes. But critics of the ban have also grown more organized in recent months, and got a boost recently when Gov. Mark Dayton said he’d sign a repeal bill.

“Eventually, we believe this ban will go away entirely,” said Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth. “But to get us closer, we’re offering a variety of options from which legislators can choose.”

To that end, Reinert and Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, laid out several possible paths:

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St. Paul reaches settlement in fatal landslide

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