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Clarification: Dayton plan best for DL, Frazee, LP-A schools: Republicans focus on tax cuts, Dayton pushes for education

At this point in the Legislative session there are three competing education, tax and bonding plans—from DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, the Republican-led House and the Republican-led Senate.

Detroit Lakes does best under Dayton's proposals. His bonding plan is the same as last year's (which failed to pass) and recommends $30 million to Detroit Lakes to offset the cost of the city's new wastewater treatment plant. Last session the Senate and House each included $15 million for the Detroit Lakes treatment plant, but the bonding bill fell apart politically in the final days of the session.

The governor's proposal this session also includes over $1.5 million for repairs and deferred maintenance at M State in Detroit Lakes.

The Senate plan includes no money for M State, and the House has not yet released its plan.

The governor's budget also proposes that an additional $711 million be spent on E-12 education. The Senate and House funding proposals provide substantially less money for education, but provide a lot more in tax cuts.

Education proposal

The Detroit Lakes School District would receive about $1.7 million in new K-12 general education funding under Dayton's plan, a little over $1 million under the Senate plan, and about $802,000 under the House plan.

The difference is much more stark when it comes to paying for free, voluntary preK to 4-year-olds. Dayton would provide $3.4 million to Detroit Lakes Schools for the program, while the House and Senate would provide nothing.

The Frazee-Vergas School District would receive $499,000 in new funding for K-12 under Dayton's proposal, $299,000 under the Senate plan and about $438,000 under the House plan.

In Frazee-Vergas, Dayton would provide $272,000 for the PreK program. Again, the Senate and House would provide nothing for PreK.

Lake Park-Audubon would get $398,000 in new K-12 funding under Dayton's plan; $234,000 under the Senate plan and $203,000 under the House plan.

LP-A would receive $428,000 for the PreK program under Dayton's proposal, and nothing from the Senate or House.

On the face of it, Waubun-Ogema-White Earth would get twice as much ($938,000) under the House plan as the $431,000 it would receive under Dayton's plan. It would receive $250,000 under the Senate plan. But the numbers are deceptive because the House would also take away about $552,000 in PreK funding over two years, so the actual amount of new money for Waubun-Ogema under the House plan would be about $386,000.

Waubun would receive $552,000 for the PreK program under both Dayton's plan and the Senate proposal. The House proposal does not fund any preK programs.

When it comes to new dollars for education, the House plan giveth and the House plan taketh away, and that's also true for the Mahnomen School District, which on the face of it would get more ($615,000) under the House plan than the $502,000 it would receive under Dayton's plan. It would get $289,000 under the Senate plan. Again, the House would cut $327,000 in existing PreK funding over two years, so the House plan actually provides just $288,000 in new money for Mahnomen Schools.

That's also true for Pelican Rapids, which would seemingly get more ($597,000) under the House plan compared to $521,000 under Dayton's plan and $314,000 under the Senate plan. But The House also takes away $419,000 in PreK funding over two years, so the actual amount of new money for Pelican Rapids under the House plan is $178,000.

Nevis is in the same boat—it would seemingly receive $501,000 in new money under the House plan, and $348,000 under Dayton's plan. It would get $218,000 under the Senate plan. But the House plan takes away $342,000 in PreK funding over two years, so the total amount of new money to Nevis under the House plan is about $159,000.

So school districts do best under Dayton's plan.

New York Mills, for example, would get $400,000 under Dayton's plan, compared to $148,000 from the House and $246,000 from the Senate.

Ulen-Hitterdal would get $159,000 in new K-12 dollars under Dayton's plan, compared to $94,000 from the Senate and just $10,000 from the House. It would get $207,000 in preK funding from Dayton, but nothing from the House or Senate.

Perham would get $764,000 from Dayton's K-12 plan, $464,000 from the Senate and $467,000 from the House. It would get $630,000 from Dayton for the PreK program, but nothing from the Senate or House.

The Battle Lake School District would receive about $236,000 in new K-12 funding under Dayton's plan, $142,000 under the Senate plan and $54,000 under the House plan.

Red Lake would get $1.2 million in new K-12 funding under Dayton's plan, compared to $718,000 under the Senate plan and $217,000 under the House plan.

The House Republican Tax Bill would cut funding for Minnesota renters' tax refunds by $40 million each year (or $80 million over the biennium). The governor's office says the Republican plan to cut renters' tax refunds would disproportionately hurt low-income Minnesota seniors and persons with disabilities who rent — taking money that they rely on to pay for groceries, pay for prescription medicines, and keep the heat on in the winter.

In Becker County, 1,340 renters would see an average cut of $138.

In Clay County, 3,540 renters would see an average cut of $137.

In Otter Tail County 2,660 renters would see an average cut of $127.

In Hubbard County 730 renters would see an average cut of $124.

In Mahnomen County 110 renters would see an average cut of $111.

Cutting taxes

The House's $1.35 billion tax-cut plan is designed to help make Minnesota competitive with the rest of the nation, House Speaker Kurt Daudt said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"Our bill is different than the Senate's bill," Daudt said. "They are going with a broad rate reduction - but it's almost not noticeable because it's spread so thin."

The biggest piece of the House Republican bill uses $270 million to exempt more seniors from paying the state's Social Security tax by raising the income level where the tax kicks in.

Minnesota is one of only seven states that tax Social Security, and the state is competing to keep its seniors with warmer states that don't tax Social Security and have low or no state income tax, Daudt said.

In Minnesota, married couples pay no income tax on Social Security income of less than $32,000.

The House Republican bill also gives farmers a break on their local school bond taxes and grows the credit available to families with child care expenses, Daudt said. It helps students and parents save for college and pay off college loans. About 77,500 students could see an average $640 tax credit, according to a Star Tribune story.

The plan includes $203 million to reduce the state property tax on businesses. It exempts the first $200,000 of property value, and also eliminates future, automatic increases. It's designed to improve the state's business climate, Daudt said. The plan also snuffs out an automatic tax increase on cigarettes.

The House and Senate tax proposals dwarf the $300 million plan that Dayton released in January.

The House plan provides for a 6.5 percent increase in K-12 education and funds transportation improvements, and takes a balanced approach to improving Minnesota, Daudt said.

As far as capital improvements, Daudt said "we are hopeful we can get a bonding bill passed (this session). We've fallen behind in investing in the state's infrastructure."

He made no apologies for the House keeping its bonding proposal under the table so far, even while the Senate and governor's proposals are out in the open.

"This is a budget year, we're focusing on getting that done," he said.

The Legislature is also ahead of the game this year—with bills largely finished and ready to head into conference committee after Easter. Daudt said he hopes the governor gets involved at the conference committee level, where bills are reconciled between the House and the Senate. He said Republicans hope to finish about three weeks prior to the end of the session, so there is time to work out any problems. "Nobody likes it when we wait until the last few days," he said.

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