ST. PAUL -- The three-way tax debate among House and Senate lawmakers and Gov. Jesse Ventura illustrates that sometimes having too much money can be as much of a problem as having too little.
All sides have agreed to a sales tax rebate of about $475 million. After that, the House, Senate and administration's proposals diverge.
Over the next three fiscal years, the House plan would cut about twice as many tax dollars as the Senate's and the governor's. Democrats say the state cannot afford the much deeper tax cuts, but Republicans believe the Finance Department's assessment of what is affordable is flawed.
Both plans are expected to be endorsed by their respective tax committees this week. They later will go to the floor, then to a House-Senate conference committee where negotiations could be contentious.
Senate DFLers want to spend about $1.3 billion on sales tax rebates, increased personal income tax exemptions, lower license tab fees and lower property taxes for apartment owners and farmers.
House Republicans want to spend about $3 billion on sales tax rebates, income tax rate cuts, property tax cuts for owners of apartment buildings, high-value industrial or commercial property or farms, and on income tax deductions for people who pay all or part of their health insurance premiums.
Ventura wants to put a $75 cap on all passenger car and pickup truck license tab fees, which would cost about $275 million a year and benefit most the owners of newer, more-expensive vehicles. He also supports the sales tax rebate.
It will take some political maneuvering to bring the plans together.
''As we go into the tax conference committee with the House this year, the Senate will not even consider reducing the rate for the top income tax bracket,'' Senate Tax Committee Chairman Doug Johnson said during a tax subcommittee hearing Friday.
That makes Wayne Cox happy. The executive director for Minnesota Citizens for Tax Justice, a non-partisan tax and budget research organization, thinks people in the upper tax bracket got their cut last year.
''The Senate tax plan does a much better job making sure its tax-cut dollars reach people at the middle class as opposed to the House plan, which has most of its tax-cut dollars aimed at those with high incomes,'' he said.
Johnson said that while he wants a good three-way agreement, he won't bend over backward for Ventura if the governor doesn't also give a little. In fact, Johnson said there's a good possibility that a House-Senate accord on a tax bill could override a gubernatorial veto.
Minnesota, long a place of high tax burdens, is the national leader in tax cuts for fiscal years 2000 and 2001, according to a recent analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But some say Minnesota still has a long way to go.
''It's kind of like a 500-pound man losing 10 pounds,'' said Darrell McKigney, president of the League of Minnesota Taxpayers, a conservative interest group that has led the fight for larger tax cuts.
Even with the permanent income tax cuts -- amounting to more than $1.3 billion next year -- Minnesota is unlikely to escape the ranks of the top 10 states in total tax burden any time soon, state tax experts agree. Minnesota has held that status for three decades.
Other issues expected to come up this week in the Legislature include a House ethics hearing over a Republican's comment on religion, a Senate floor debate on new sex offender restrictions, and floor action on transportation, bonding and education bills.
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