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In Minnesota

When Minnesota lawmakers return to the Capitol next week, they will be thinking about taxes. It won’t be easy. House Republicans want $2 billion in tax cuts. But Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Democrats want far less, and they’re warning that a too hefty give-back could set the stage for future deficits. (MPR News)

The extensive renovation of the Minnesota Capitol is $30 million over budget, state officials revealed. (MPR News)

Democrats in the Minnesota Senate released a budget outline that would spend nearly $43 billion over the next two years and provide more than $200 million in tax cuts. (MPR News)

A Pioneer Press analysis of registered lobbyists found that since 2002 alone, at least five dozen legislators have registered to lobby their former colleagues once their election certificates expired. (Pioneer Press)

A dispute over gender pay equity at the agency building the new Vikings stadium has sparked calls for the state to reform the governance of the state’s stadium authority. (MPR News)

More Vikings stadium drama: The leadership structure at the top of the agency overseeing construction of the new stadium has led to duplicative work and blurred lines of accountability, members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority said in a rare show of conflict on the board. (Pioneer Press)

Gov. Mark Dayton called Friday for cracking down on poachers with tougher criminal penalties and longer revocations of their hunting and fishing privileges, a response to several recent incidents including the illegal killing of two bull elk in northwestern Minnesota. (MPR News)

A new project to promote civility in Minnesota politics gets some gentle mocking from a Strib reporter. (Star Tribune)

National Politics

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) defended the religious freedom bill that he just signed, saying the outrage over the legislation stems from “misinformation and misunderstanding.” Critics say it lets businesses discriminate against gays by citing religious views as a reason to deny them service. (Washington Post)

Just hours after Minority Leader Harry Reid announced he would retire, Sen. Chuck Schumer declared Friday he would run to be Democratic leader — and a source close to the New York Democrat said he has already locked up enough support within the caucus to secure the top job. (Politico)

Senate Republicans bolted for a two-week spring recess with the confirmation of Loretta E. Lynch as attorney general in jeopardy, and themselves in a quandary: Accept a qualified nominee they oppose because she backs President Obama’s policies or reject her and live with an attorney general they despise, Eric H. Holder Jr. (New York Times)

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is firing back at some of the Wall Street banks that reportedly are weighing withholding political contributions to Democrats unless she reins in her rhetoric about large financial institutions. (USA Today)

Amid falling steel prices that have led to the closure of two Iron Range taconite plants, members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation and the Dayton Administration pushed the Obama Administration to act on what they described as illegal trade practices. (MPR News)

…and 2nd District U.S. Rep. John Kline is spending the congressional recess traveling with House Speaker John Boehner and a large delegation of House Republicans. Their first stop was the United Kingdom and they will also visit Israel, among other stops. A spokesman writes the purpose of the trip is “to reinforce the need for strong leadership in the world, including an overarching strategy to defeat the terrorist threat.”

WASHINGTON – Amid falling steel prices that have led to the closure of two Iron Range taconite plants, members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation and the Dayton Administration on Friday pushed the Obama Administration to act on what they described as illegal trade practices.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, 8th District U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith met with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman at the White House on Friday morning.

The discussion centered on legislation that would shorten the amount of time it takes to determine whether foreign companies are exporting products to the U.S. at a loss, according to Klobuchar.

“I think the more we can show strength in changing our laws as a country, the more quickly some of these foreign governments will see that we mean business and hopefully we can get the plants opening again,” said Klobuchar.

Earlier this month, U.S. Steel announced that it was temporarily idling its Keetac plant on the Iron Range and laying off 412 workers. Last month, Magnetation announced it was closing an Iron Range plant and laying off nearly 50 people.

The lawmakers and the steel industry blame unfair foreign competition for the industry’s woes, in particular cheap imports from Asia and Australia.

“American steel companies are being irreparably harmed by illegal trade practices,” said U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi to members of Congress on Thursday.

But the industry’s problems are also compounded by the strong dollar, which makes imports much cheaper, and a strong U.S. economy in which demand for steel continues to grow.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk announced DFL budget targets that emphasize education spending and increase reserves. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Democrats in the Minnesota Senate released a budget outline Friday that would spend nearly $43 billion over the next two years and provide more than $200 million in tax cuts.

They described their proposal as charting the middle ground between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and House Republicans. But most of the numbers track closer to Dayton.

With a projected $1.9 billion surplus to work with, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said $555 million would be spent on public schools, colleges and universities.

Bakk said a big difference in the Senate plan is that it puts $250 million into the state’s rainy day account.

“Everyone would like to spend more money,” Bakk said. “Everybody would like to have a tax cut. But really the state budget is critically important to the delivery of all the services that our state and local governments provide, and making sure that stability is there going forward is just really, really critical.”

The Senate DFL target number for tax relief is similar to the governor’s but far smaller House Republicans, who are proposing $2 billion in unspecified cuts.

Bakk said more restraint is needed to avoid repeating fiscal mistakes of the past.

The House GOP budget outline, unveiled earlier this week, is about $3 billion smaller than the plan Gov. Dayton released in January and updated last week.

Senate Republicans quickly criticized the DFL targets.

Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said that Democrats are refusing to eliminate wasteful spending. Hann also took issue with the DFL’s transportation funding proposal.

“Their continued insistence on raising the gas tax when the state is already sitting on a pile of extra money is simply disrespectful to hardworking taxpayers,” Hann said. “Like Gov. Dayton, Sen. Bakk and the Senate Democrats have forgotten who the budget surplus actually belongs to: the people of Minnesota.”