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BRIEFS: House budget bill up

Budget bill up

Republicans' first stab at balancing the state's $6.2 billion budget deficit is due for a full House vote tonight.

About $200 million of $1 billion in cuts proposed in the bill would come before July 1, with the rest in the next two-year budget cycle.

Democrats failed on Wednesday to send the measure back to be considered by committees, complaining that it was rushed through the process.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, told Democrats that the bill was well vetted by going through five committees."

"This is a very small step in what will be a lot of heavy lifting," Dean said.

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said cuts in aid sent to local governments would result in more than $400 million in property tax increases.

A similar Senate bill is due for a vote next week.

Penalty for death

A bill to raise the penalty for some drivers who cause a fatality passed out of its first House committee Wednesday.

Up to a year in jail and a fine of $3,000 would be possible for people who cause a death by driving carelessly, Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington said.

A victim advocacy group unsuccessfully lobbied to expand the bill to include incidents where "great bodily harm" resulted from careless driving.

Cuts hurt 'poorest'

An Otter Tail County official told a Senate committee Wednesday that budget cuts in human services programs hurt "the poorest of the poor."

John Dinsmore, the county's human services director, said that cuts forced him to lay off 15 people, more than 13 percent of his staff.

Keeping people in his department working "can serve as an economic generator, he said.

Human services programs mostly provide basic food and health-care needs to the poor and disabled.

Animals would avoid tax

Animals sold by nonprofit animal shelters would be exempt from sales tax under a bill moving through the Legislature.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, sponsors the bill that could be included in an overall tax bill.

Sandra Shirley, a Farmington animal shelter worker, told the House Tax Committee that money saved from not collecting taxes could go toward veterinary and food expanses.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.