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Minn. Legislature not yet at 'yellow alert' status

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ST. PAUL - Legislative leaders did not appear panicked Thursday even though little time remains for them and Gov. Tim Pawlenty to hammer out a session-ending deal.

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"We aren't even at yellow-alert status yet," said House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall.

Legislators have through Sunday to pass bills; they can meet Monday, but only for ceremonial matters.

Property tax decreases, budget balancing and health-care reform were the prime topics of high-level negotiations Thursday. Little, if any, progress was reported during the daylong talks.

Property taxes were the focus of much of the day, as they have been for most of this week.

The governor wants to limit annual property tax increases local governments can enact to 3.3 percent. Democrats propose a 5.5 percent cap, but with several exceptions that would allow larger increases.

Still in play was a Democratic-Farmer-Labor proposal to increase state payments to local governments, an attempt to help them keep property taxes down. Many Republicans don't like the idea of boosting local aids.

But Seifert declared dead another DFL plan to eliminate the property tax deduction on the state income tax form, instead using that money to send checks to people who pay a high percentage of their income in local property taxes.

Those involved in the closed-door talks did not indicate that there was much discussion about the $935 million budget deficit.

Some were thinking about another option - nothing major happening the rest of the legislative session.

The governor can make budget cuts on his own but cannot take all of the actions he and the Legislature together can do to balance the budget. Lawmakers return to session again in January, with six months left to finish balancing the budget.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or at davis@forumcomm.com

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