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JOBZ continues to fail

ST. PAUL - The Senate passed a tax bill Thursday that would kill Gov. Tim Pawlenty's key rural economic development initiative, after rural senators tried, but failed, to resurrect the program.

On Wednesday, senators preliminarily voted for the bill, and by a single vote decided to leave a provision that would kill the Jobs Opportunity Buildings Zones program. On Thursday, rural senators complained about dropping the program, which provides deep tax breaks to many new and expanding businesses.

While many rural senators said businesses in their districts benefit from JOBZ, Senate Taxes Chairman Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said there are many problems with Gov. Tim Pawlenty's pet program and money lost to tax breaks takes funds away from the state during an economic slowdown.

Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said rural Minnesota's livelihood is not reliant on the program.

"We have a lot of things in greater Minnesota to attract jobs and businesses - it's not just JOBZ," he said.

Senators voted 39-28 for the overall tax package, which Pawlenty described as "riddled with problems."

"The Legislature's putting together bills they know are not acceptable to me," the governor said Thursday.

Pawlenty said JOBZ can be improved, but "it would be really misguided to eliminate the program."