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Indian veterans to get plaque near Capitol

ST. PAUL -- A Senate committee on Wednesday approved placing a plaque honoring American Indian veterans near the state Capitol.

It heads to a full Senate vote, and a similar bill is moving in the House.

Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, sponsors the bill.

"We love our country," White Earth Nation Chairwoman Erma Vizenor told senators, adding that a larger percentage of American Indians have served in the military than whites.

Vizenor came up with the idea a few years ago when touring the military Court of Honor in the Capitol mall.

Blake Johnson, lobbyist for Prairie Island Indian Community, called the plaque "an appropriate way to honor American Indians who have honorably served the American armed forces."

Job training credit proposed

Greater Minnesota employers could see reduced costs for training employees under a bill recently introduced by Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter.

The proposal would give employers outside the Twin Cities metro area that meet certain requirements a tax credit to help offset training costs for new jobs.

"One of the most common problems facing our Greater Minnesota businesses is the lack of well-trained workers to fill the jobs available," Ward said. "We have got plenty of talented, bright people and opportunities for training, but most folks simply can't pay for it."

The businesses must be expanding or opening in Minnesota for the first time and creating new jobs to be eligible. "With a slow economic recovery in greater Minnesota, we can't miss out on this opportunity," Ward said.

The bill has Republican support as well, including from co-author Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake.

It will have its first committee hearing Thursday.

Tax changes

About 250,000 Minnesotans will benefit from a law signed by Gov. Mark Dayton that aligns Minnesota tax changes with national ones for the 2012 tax year, his office said Wednesday.

"As Minnesotans file their income taxes over the next several months, this legislation will deliver the simplicity and relief they deserve," Dayton said. "I want to thank legislators from both parties for working together to quickly pass this important legislation. Hundreds of thousands of teachers, students, senior citizens and middle-class families now stand to benefit as a result."

The bill authors included state Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook.

The changes include extended educator expense and higher education tuition deductions.

The law also eliminates some paperwork and makes it easier for Minnesotans to claim the benefits, Dayton's office said, and allows taxpayers to claim the deductions without filing an additional form.

LGA supported

Many cities are happy with an increase in local government aid proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton in his budget plan.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, joined by a group of Minnesota mayors, urged lawmakers Wednesday to support the plan and push for more local funding in the future.

"It is not a partisan issue. It has never been," Coleman said.

The mayors said cities are struggling with rising property taxes and having difficulty funding repairs and police and fire services.

Coleman said this proposal would start to put cities back on track. "I view this as stabilization more than relief," he said.

The governor's budget plan includes $80 million in extra funds for cities.

Don Davis contributed to this story.