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Senate panel OKs Minnesota propane aid

ST. PAUL -- The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a House-passed bill to provide $20 million to help Minnesotans afford heat.

However, the committee made two amendments, so if the Senate passes it early next week it must make another stop at the House for approval of those changes.

One amendment just dealt with a couple of words, but the other was more significant because it requires no more than 5 percent of the money to go to administrative costs. Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman told committee members that 10 percent of the existing heating aid program goes to administration.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Saxhaug, D-Grand Rapids, is expected to pass the Senate easily. The House, which passed its version 133-0 during Tuesday's opening-day session, could get the new bill as early as Thursday of next week.

While money in the bill could be given to Minnesotans using any type of heat, it came up because prices for propane that mostly is used in rural areas spiked this year.

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