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Minnesota legislative leaders: Deal close on public construction, taxes

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota legislative leaders have agreed on most details of public construction legislation and tax bill, the top Republican in the state Senate and the top House Democrat said Monday.

Although both sides reported making progress on policing since last month’s special session ended in partisan acrimony, it remained unclear whether they’re close enough to bridge their differences during the new special session. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, of East Gull Lake, said lawmakers should focus on less controversial policing changes that can pass both chambers of the divided Legislature.

“The tough part is getting the details and the language, but it does feel like there’s been progress there,” Gazelka said at a news conference. He specifically cited a ban on choke holds and giving officers the duty to intervene when they see a fellow officer using excessive force as issues where they’re close.

The most immediate chance for progress in this special session appeared to be on public-construction legislation, known as a bonding bill, that the leaders are hoping to have ready for adoption next Monday. To get the required GOP votes, Hortman said the proposal will include a sweetener that Republicans have long sought: a provision to conform the state’s tax code with a federal business tax break for new equipment purchases.

The combination bonding-and-tax bill must pass the House first, according to the state constitution, and it must pass each chamber with a three-fifths majority, which will require some bipartisan support in each chamber. The package would include $1.35 billion in projects funded by “general obligation” bonds that get repaid from the state’s general fund, as well as $447 million in projects from bonds that get repaid from other revenue streams, and $38 million in cash.

House Democrats released the 180-page legislation Monday evening. It includes $116 million for affordable housing, $82 million for improvements and repairs in the Minnesota State colleges and universities system and another $75 million in projects for the separate University of Minnesota system. Much of the rest would go toward clean water infrastructure, correctional buildings, roads and bridges, parks and trails, and public buildings. It would create about 27,540 jobs, Democratic leaders said, citing calculations from a U.S. Commerce Department model.

Senate Republicans opened the special session with a 36-31 vote to rescind Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s special powers to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Hortman said her caucus would block GOP efforts to lift his powers, just as it had done last month.

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