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It's all about budgets this week at the Capitol

This week at the state Capitol will be all about budget bills.

The GOP-led Legislature set a deadline of Friday to wrap up their budget proposals in committees. This week, those bills will head to the House and Senate floors for votes. Democrats argue that the bills are based on faulty numbers because many proposals lack fiscal analysis by the state Department of Revenue. They say other items rely on actions by the federal government, like a waiver from federal requirements for Medical Assistance, that might not come.

Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said the commissioner of Health and Human Services might as well buy a lottery ticket and assume it will be a winner. She offered an amendment to the Health and Human Services budget bill that would allow the commissioner to buy a Mega Millions lottery ticket and book $304 million in savings from it.

"Purchasing a Mega Millions lottery ticket is just as reliable as the budget proposals put forth by the Republicans. It's a nice dream, but you can't take it to the bank," Liebling said.

Republicans counter that much of the blame for the lack of financial analysis rests with state agencies. House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said during a visit to Rochester that the agencies have been slow to get committees the fiscal notes they need. He also said that questions have been raised about the accuracy of some of those notes. He said that when Democrats in the House put their Health and Human Services budget together, they relied on Medicaid stimulus money even though there was no guarantee that was going to happen.

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It’s unclear whether DFL Gov. Mark Dayton will be willing to sign any of the budget bills. During a news conference last week, Dayton described the GOP budget proposals as having " a lot of drastic and very poorly thought through, or not thought through, actions."

The Tea Party and the sales tax

With the House expected to vote on the omnibus tax bill on Monday, members of the Rochester Tea Party Patriots are mobilizing against efforts to restore funding for projects as part of the Rochester local-option sales tax.

The group launched an "urgent action alert" via email on Saturday after members of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday called on House Republicans to allow voters the chance to weigh in on the city’s $160 million sales-tax extension proposal. A key House committee stripped $58.5 million from the sales tax proposal, including funding for a senior center, youth center, library extension and economic development proposals. The city needs the Legislature’s approval before it can put the sales tax issue on the ballot.

The email asks, "Will our Legislators Cave to the Country Club Chamber of Commerce members and City Officials to add the 58.5 million dollars back into the Sales Tax bill?" It asks members to call local lawmakers and voice opposition to the tax proposal.

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