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Minnesota Senate Republicans release legislative priorities

Associated Press

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FILE - The Minnesota State Capitol is shown in this Jan. 10, 2020 photo in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Senate Republicans unveiled priorities for the new legislative session this week that include limiting the governor’s peacetime emergency powers and avoiding tax increases to help with financial woes caused by the pandemic.

The package includes legislation that would allow businesses with COVID-19 safety plans to reopen, shift authority to close schools from Democratic Gov. Tim Walz to local school boards, and limit other emergency powers from the governor. The package also features scholarships for low-income students and initiatives to make buying a house more affordable.

The caucus’s priorities also include blocking clean emissions standards for cars and cutting 5% from the budget of each state agency.

Lawmakers are working with a projected surplus of $641 million in the current budget that runs through June 30. They face a $1.3 billion budget shortfall in the next two-year budget. The Legislature is required by law to come to terms on a balanced two-year budget, which is expected to total around $50 billion.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he aims to close the budget deficit without income tax, gas tax or sales tax increases.

“We have reserves, we have CARES Act money coming in and we also know that our state agencies can be more efficient,” he said.

Democrats, who control the House, earlier this month announced their priorities, including a package of five bills to assist workers, families and small businesses struggling due to the ongoing pandemic.

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