Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
March 3-7 Govenor's budget challenge Gov. Pawlenty announced his plan Friday to balance the current biennium's budget. About 40 percent of the state's nearly $1 billion spending deficit would be made up with cuts in spending to a wide variety of state programs, although education, nursing homes, veterans and most public safety programs are protected. Another third comes from surplus balances in specific accounts - like the Health Care Access fund - and the final 25 percent comes from state "rainy day" reserve funds. The governor also offered a 1/8 percent cut in the state sales tax to offset some of the new gas taxes passed into law over his veto. Lawmakers will now begin crafting the bills that will ultimately make those changes. Tax bill offers some relief The Senate approved a bill that includes tax relief for disabled veterans, elimination of tax loopholes for some non-resident wage earners and compliance with federal tax law changes - otherwise know as "federal conformity" - which also results in tax relief for many Minnesotans. Included in the bill was also a proposal to help small, struggling "mom and pop" vacation resorts in Minnesota. A failed amendment would have withheld state aid to Minnesota's "sanctuary cities," municipalities that prohibit law enforcement officers from inquiring about the legal immigration status of detained individuals. It would have applied only to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Worthington. JOBZ requirements tightened The Senate Business, Industry and Jobs Committee advanced a bill to redefine the state's JOBZ economic stimulus program in Minnesota and clarify what businesses may participate in it. The JOBZ program is an initiative to stimulate economic development activity in rural Minnesota by providing local and state tax exemptions to new and expanding businesses, but has received criticism in past months. The current proposal would exclude public utilities and retail business, demand that businesses increase their workforce by five new jobs or 20 percent and require that the employer must pay each employee compensation, including benefits, at a rate 110 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four. Begun in 2004 as an 11-year program, JOBZ has completed 323 agreements with companies and is credited with the retention of 11,762 jobs. Lets play hockey And finally, let's end on a cheerful note. As state hockey rivalries are being fought out here in St. Paul, one Senate committee is designating hockey as the official state sport. Said one young testifier: "One of the best reasons hockey should be our state sport is because Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes and they all freeze up to make great hockey rinks."
Sen. Michelle Fischbach is serving in her fifth term in the Minnesota Senate. She encourages and appreciates constituent input and can be reached at (651) 296-2084, by mail to 153 State Office Building/St. Paul, MN 55155 or via e-mail at