Archived Story

Smokers, top earners to pay more state taxes

Published 10:10am Tuesday, May 21, 2013

ST. PAUL — Minnesota lawmakers worked right up to the end Monday before adjourning a session that produced $2.1 billion in tax hikes and a historic vote on gay marriage.

The gavel fell after a frenetic final push to wrap up major issues.

A lock on power by Democrats guaranteed they would get most of their wish list. In a $38.3 billion budget, lawmakers raised taxes on top earners, eliminated some corporate tax write-offs and increased the cigarette tax. That erased a $627 million deficit but also brings in enough money to boost funding for schools and dole out property tax relief.

Lawmakers also made Minnesota the 12th state to legalize gay marriage. But efforts to tighten gun restrictions in the wake of the Newtown shootings failed. An increase in the minimum wage fizzled when the two chambers couldn’t agree on how much to raise it. That falls to the 2014 agenda.

The session began — and ended — with Democrats sensitive to worries they would overreach with their agenda after controlling all aspects of government for the first time since 1990.

“We set an ambitious agenda but I think it’s one that Minnesotans actually want to see. It is a great agenda for middle class Minnesotans, for investing in education,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. “It looks like overreaching maybe because the last 10 years have been underperforming.”

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said his party would make the case to voters that the new taxes will cripple the economy and that labor unions were given too much power to sway state policy.

“They didn’t restrain themselves, and ultimately they will probably be judged poorly on that,” Daudt said of his Democratic counterparts.

Just minutes before midnight, the tax bill passed the Senate 36-30, with three Democrats voting against. The vote was also tight in the House earlier in the day.

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