ST. PAUL -- With tax cuts and bonding projects to dole out in the legislative session beginning Tuesday, lawmakers will look for opportunities to claim the sometimes elusive two-to-one edge.
When two sides of Minnesota's three-legged stool of government agree, they have a better shot at imposing their view on the third. For example, if the Republicans running the House agree with DFLers running the Senate, the two could overcome a veto from Reform Party Gov. Jesse Ventura.
The state's first three-way session went mostly fine in 1999 despite occasional bumps, grinding hours and vetoes.
This year brings the shorter, off-year session. Lawmakers hope to be done by mid- to late April and they don't have to put together a two-year budget, but they face some big and tricky issues such as tax cuts, a bonding bill, transportation funding and personal privacy.
''It's going to be quick and painless, like going to a modern dentist,'' quipped House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan. ''It's always easier when you have a surplus.''
All 201 lawmakers are up for re-election in November and both parties want to wrap themselves in winning issues to take to the voters.
The GOP focus will be what they're calling lunch bucket issues. Those include income and property tax cuts, transportation and crime-prevention spending, and rural development.
The DFL hopes to catch fire with privacy issues, ranging from consumers' ability to protect personal information to protecting what they view as the right to have an abortion. DFLers also will push investments in education and transportation.
''This agenda ... emphasizes personal empowerment,'' said Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine. ''We want people to make decisions for themselves.''
Moe said his biggest priority would be ''tax relief targeted at middle-income families.''
Some of the hottest debates will be over how much and which taxes to cut, and how much to spend on transportation.
A sales tax rebate of about $500 million is all but assured as are tax cuts and a healthy dose of transportation funding.
Republicans want a whopper tax cut across all income tax rates identical to cuts in 1999. The DFL and Ventura want a more modest cut.
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