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Health deal made; utility cities to get help

Minnesotans should pay less for health care insurance under a plan senators passed 62-5 and representatives supported 127-7 early Sunday.

The bill both adds 7,000 to the MinnesotaCare state-backed insurance program and takes steps to make Minnesotans healthier in an attempt to lower health-insurance premiums.

The measure was not what everyone wanted. Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, said senators first voted to add 40,000 people to MnCare and take other stronger measures than the final bill.

"At least we will have more people insured under than bill than we should have without this bill," she said. "They are still steps in the right direction. We never finish the journey without taking the first steps to get there."

Besides the MnCare additions, 5,000 more Minnesotans who meet certain criteria could seek tax credits to buy private insurance.

Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said that under the compromise plan, health-care premiums would be 12 percent lower in 2015 than without the bill.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to sign the bill.

Utility cities get help

A legislative tax package ensures cities with power plants and other utility facilities will not lose significant revenue due to a recent state ruling.

Legislative negotiators and Gov. Tim Pawlenty agreed to provide utility host communities, such as Red Wing and Becker, with new state aid to offset losses in property tax revenue that result from a Department of Revenue rule change.

Senate Taxes Chairman Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he sought to help utility communities by making a different tax change, but Pawlenty opposed that, so they settled on the new fund.

"I think the host communities are comfortable with the language," Bakk said.