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Legislature passed tax hikes for transportation

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House and Senate Sunday passed a sweeping bill that includes new taxes to help pay for roads and bridges

ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota lawmakers Sunday passed the biggest transportation bill since 2008, including $650 million that will be used to leverage $7.8 billion in federal dollars set aside for qualified projects in the state.

The measure includes tax increases that drew fire from Republicans, but Sen. Scott Dibble, who chairs the Senate transportation committee, reminded his colleagues that this part of the budget is separate from the rest of state government.

“There is no surplus in transportation in Minnesota. Sources and resources we rely on to support transportation are outside of the General Fund and they’re stagnate or in decline.”

The bill, if signed by Gov. Walz, will for the first time index the state gas tax to inflation in highway costs starting in January of 2024. Democrats say that will translate to 3 cents per gallon in January, and less than a penny per year after that.

The bill also imposes a three-quarter cent sales tax increase in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area dedicated to transit and roads. It also features 75-cent retail delivery fee on orders over $100. All food, whether grocery items or dishes made in restaurants, would be exempt from the new fee.

“We have not had a bill like this ever in Minnesota that is so comprehensive, so forward looking,” Rep. Frank Hornstein, the Minneapolis Democrat who leads the House Transportation Committee, told KARE.

One of the projects that will employ state funding to match a larger amount of federal infrastructure dollars is the Northern Lights Express passenger rail service from the Twin Cities to Duluth.

“We match every single dollar the federal government is going to give us for roads, bridges and transit with this bill.”

Republicans warned against investing state money in intercity rail projects rather than road work that can expand highway capacity and relieve congestion.

“If you want to get to Duluth and take more time than it takes to drive there, the train will actually do that for you!” Rep. Kurt Daudt, a Crown Republican and former House Speaker, told his colleagues.

Republicans acknowledge transportation is supposed to pay for itself, and that most of the state’s general fund surplus isn’t available for under current law for roads and bridges. But they argue that the Democrat majority could change that if they made it a priority.

They asserted there’s no reason to raise any taxes when the state began the session with a record $17 billion budget surplus. They often point out the actual size of the surplus is larger, if one removes estimated inflation.

“We’ve got the nearly $19 billion surplus, so Minnesotans were really looking to have some of that money returned to them. You would never expect to have tax increases, right?” Sen. Mark Johnson of East Grand Forks, the Senate Minority Leader, told KARE.

Earlier in the day Sunday the Senate wrapped up work on the Omnibus Tax Bill, which has $3 billion in tax breaks and at least $1 billion in new taxes.

That includes an expansion of the number of Social Security recipients who are exempt from paying income taxes on their benefits. Couples who earn less than $100,000 and individuals who make less than $78,000 wouldn’t have to pay taxes on their Social Security checks.

The package includes rebate checks of $260 per person, or $520 per married couple, plus $260 for each child up to three children. So the maximum check would be $1,300 for a family of five.

But that’s means tested, too. It would only be available to couples earning less than $150,000 per year and single filers who make less than $75,000 per year.

The bill also includes new childcare credits, that start at $1,750 per child for households making $38,000 or less. It would gradually phase out to zero for families making $96,000 or more.

“Republicans would’ve given the money to everyone including millionaires, billionaires. We chose to give money back to childcare workers, nursing home workers, people who are raising children,” DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman told KARE.

The revenue raisers in the bill would come mainly from larger companies with a corporate presence overseas and from higher income earners. That includes a new 1% tax on all net income from investments — annuities, royalties, interest, and other gains that don’t come from a business. It excludes gains from agricultural land sales.





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Dog attack leaves 7-year-old with visual injuries

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A dog attack has left a 7-year-old girl with scrapes on her legs and back and cuts on her lips.

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — A 7-year-old who was hurt in a dog attack Tuesday is still processing what happened.

“I was just walking and then it pushed me and started attacking me,” said Yamah Yekeku.

She went to drop off a package at her neighbor’s home. Then the dog ran toward her.

“It’s is third time chasing somebody,” Yekeku said.

Her mother Mary Innis pointed out the scrapes on her legs and back, and the little cuts on her lips.

The dog who attacked her is a part of 13-year-old Yazmina Warsame’s family.

“She was really sweet, she was very playful,” she said.

Warsame said her dog’s name was Diamond, a 1-year-old Pitbull.

“Diamond didn’t mean to hurt nobody, she just wanted to play and they killed her for it,” she said.

Brooklyn Park Police and shot killed the dog because they said it went after another child.

“The animal actually ran into a playground area, a park area in an apartment complex and there were two young children that were in the park. The dog took off after one of the children and was trying to bite that child,” said Brooklyn Park Police Precinct Inspector and Public Information Officer Elliot Faust.

Faust said a cadet lifted the child up to his shoulder to protect him.

“The dog was jumping up actively trying to bite the child and that’s when one of our officers shot him,” Faust said.

He said the 7-year-old was treated for her injuries at the scene. Innis said she took her daughter to the doctor’s office on Wednesday to get a rabies shot as a precaution.

Tuesday’s incident was the second dog attack to happen within Brooklyn Park. A 3-year-old was attacked by two Pitbulls, last Friday. Faust said the child’s injuries were extensive, and he’s still recovering in the hospital. He said that attack was the worst dog attack he has ever seen.

“These are not common, they don’t happen frequently, so it is kind of strange that we’re talking about two in one week,” Faust said.

Faust want community members to be more aware of their surroundings and to understand their dog. He said they’ve had more dangerous dog designations so far this year than all of last year.

“As a dog owner it is your responsibility to take control of the animal,” Faust said. One mistake that happens can have tragic consequences.”

Warsame said her dog was just hyper. Diamond also had long nails, Warsame said they were planning to cut.

She’s heartbroken her dog is gone and doesn’t understand why police had to kill her. She wants people to know her dog wasn’t mean.

“People take advantage of the way a big dog looks, they don’t know her personality, so people might have called her mean and I don’t people to think Diamond is mean, and I feel like it’s important to share. She wasn’t a mean dog, she was never a mean dog,” Warsame said.



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MN church group stranded for days in New Orleans

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The group was originally supposed to be home this past Saturday.

MINNEAPOLIS — A Twin Cities church group is on its way home tonight, after spending the last few days stranded in New Orleans.

“We are really sick of the airport,” Leisha Tays, supervising the trip, said in a FaceTime call from the airport.

That trip, to the Evangelical Lutherans in America Youth Gathering, was supposed to end this past Saturday.

“Every once in awhile, it would just get bumped back farther and farther and farther,” she said.

That group from Our Saviours’ Lutheran Church in East Bethel consists of 14, mostly made up of kids. Tays says it’s been a challenge to figure out their next steps with a group so big.

“It is frustrating, but I also know it’s nothing I can control,” Tays said. “That’s what I keep telling my kids that I’m here with, is that you can only control yourself.”

“Doing our best, what else do you do, right?” she added.

To keep themselves busy, they’ve spent time exploring New Orleans, a vacation that they were initially alright with extending. They quickly realized there were challenges that came with that, including working through Delta’s vouchers, which covered not nearly enough for a group their size.

“We have been given three $12 meal vouchers per person, which doesn’t really cover much,” Tays said. “Especially in four days.”

They made it through thanks to donations from their church members back home, donating to keep the crew fed.

“A lot of details, and everything went great until it didn’t,” Lisa Rykken Kastler, Director of Congregational Ministries for the church, said.

“There wasn’t even an ask, the situation was such that, ok, you’re gonna need money,” Rykken Kastler added.

At the time of this article’s writing, Tays tells KARE11 that they’re finally taxiing, ready to take off and come home – a vacation they can’t wait to end.

“We’re just exhausted, you know?” she said. “There’s the emotional and the physical exhaustion that’s going on, and we’re ready.”



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Met Council asks cities to sign-off on Blue Line Extension plans

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The Met Council is asking several cities to sign off on the preliminary design for the Blue Light Extension.

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — The communities along the proposed METRO Blue Line Extension are getting a chance to review and discuss the proposed plans with the public. 

The METRO Blue Line Extension is anticipated to be 13.4 miles between Target Field and Brooklyn Park, and would also run through Crystal and Robbinsdale. The Met Council hopes to start service in 2030, and estimate total ridership would be nearly 30,000 daily trips. 

Now, community leaders will be asked to consent to major project elements like where stations are located and where tracks will go. According to the Met Council, many project details haven’t been determined and the plans leave a lot of room for future design choices.

“This process gives people an opportunity to participate in the line through their elected officials,” said Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle in a press release. “This is a big investment that will serve our region for the next 100 years.”

Each of the municipalities will hold a public meeting and then vote before October 10, the Met Council said. 

“No matter how well we design a project, we need each city to let us know how it will fit into their neighborhoods and serve their communities,” said Zelle. “We’ve held weekly meetings for the past four years to ensure our designs are on the mark. But it’s up to each city council to approve preliminary design plans or recommend changes.”

The proposed plans can be viewed by clicking here.



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