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BEST USE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS Minneapolis 2002 -

Since 1999, 58 percent of Minnesota's budget surplus was swallowed by tax cuts and rebates. None has gone to children and families. The multi-pronged "Leave No Child Behind" bill aimed to change that by, among other things, eliminating the state's waiting list for childcare, increasing the minimum wage to $7 per hour, and directing tax relief to families with children. Those and other provisions were to be funded by a one-dollar increase in the state cigarette tax. But the state's hefty deficit boded ill, and in the end only three minor pieces of the bill passed. (Those, at least, should provide families with easier access to healthcare and childcare.) The Children's Defense Fund, which helped craft the legislation, vows to try again next year. And public-policy director Minh Ta says this year's push made the point as clear as could be: "Even in a time of deficit, the needs for kids and families and the needs for low-income working families don't go away."

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