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Political Notebook: Republicans to attack DFL-backed tax increases

A DFL-backed tax bill that calls for $2 billion in tax increases takes effect today, and Republicans are poised to pounce on it.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, are to hold a press conference this afternoon attacking the tax increases. Those changes include a $1.60-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes and a new sales tax for downloaded music, books and ringtones. Also in the mix is an income tax increase on married couples with a taxable income of more than $250,000 and single filers making more than $150,000.

Democrats note that these tax increases are being used to make key investments such as funding optional all-day, everyday kindergarten and boosting higher-education spending to allow for a tuition freeze. The money is also helping to pay for more than $400 million in property tax relief.

Walz targets tax breaks for luxury yachts

First District DFL Rep. Tim Walz introduced a bill last week aimed at eliminating a tax break enjoyed by luxury yacht owners.


Walz joined with Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley to introduce the "Ending Tax Subsidies for Yachts Act." The measure would no longer allow yacht owners to use the mortgage interest deduction to write off their ships as second homes.

"Closing this tax loophole is a no-brainer step to cut down on wasteful spending. The Mortgage Interest Deduction was made to help middle class families own a home and achieve the American Dream, not to subsidize yachts for the super-rich," Walz said in a statement.

The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates Walz's bill would save more than $150 million.

This isn't the first time Walz has gone after the yacht tax break. He introduced the same bill in the previous session. It never got a hearing in the Republican-controlled House.

Democrats attack Benson on farm bill

During a local town hall meeting last week, 1st District candidate and state Rep. Mike Benson told the crowd he would not have voted for the farm bill that failed to pass the U.S. House. Democrats quickly issued a press release accusing Benson of choosing "extreme partisan politics over Minnesota producers and middle class families."

In a statement, Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin said, " By admitting he would have voted against the Farm Bill, Benson is highlighting that ideology will trump pragmatism if he's elected to Congress and how truly out of touch Benson's extreme agenda is with the voters of the 1st District. Our farming and rural community needs certainty now, not another ideologue like Michelle Bachmann."

In an interview, Benson confirmed that he did say he would have voted against the tax bill. He said his concern is the amount of money in the bill for food stamps at a time when the nation is facing a massive deficit. He said he wants to see a farm bill get done but not if it is going to cause bigger problems down the road.


He added, "Is it extreme to believe that government does need to live within its means?"

Walz did vote for the farm bill. He said that while there were things he did not like in the bill, he felt it was important to get a bill passed so that producers have some certainty.

Wright mulling a bid for Congress?

The New Ulm Journal reported last week that Rochester Dr. Scott Wright is seriously considering running for the 1st District seat. Wright is very active in the local Republican Party. In 2006, he ran against DFLer Ann Lynch for a state Senate seat and lost. He did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Wright is the latest in a long line of Republicans mulling a possible run against Walz in 2014. Others considering a run include former state Sen. Al DeKruif of Madison Lake, former state Sen. Mike Parry of Waseca, Byron veteran Aaron Miller and Jim Hagedorn of Blue Earth, whose father is former 2nd District GOP Congressman Tom Hagedorn.

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