We are now two weeks into the 2015 session, meaning committees are hitting their stride and bills are being introduced by the hundreds.
In the Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee, which I chair, we have spent the first sessions getting the group acclimated. We have 17 members on the committee and, especially with a handful of freshman members and other veterans who are on this panel for the first time, it has been important to conduct some informational hearings and get everyone up to speed.
One thing that I have discovered early this session is that it is helpful to me that three of the four committees I am serving pertain to education – Higher Ed., along with both K-12 finance and policy committees. There are areas of overlap, allowing me to see how the dots connect and offer input from different angles.
Our time on the House floor as a full body has been limited to start as we focus on committee work, but one important thing we did this week was to pass a bill that will help Minnesotans as they file their taxes. This bill (H.F. 6)
matches Minnesota’s tax code with some of the federal tax changes made since 2013. In total, provides $19.9 million in immediate tax relief to hardworking Minnesotans. Top provisions include:
Higher education tuition deduction
Educator classroom expenses deduction
$1.2 million in fiscal year 2015; about 60,000 returns, $20 average tax decrease
$4.6 million in fiscal year 2015; about 60,000 returns; $75 average tax decrease
Mortgage insurance premiums deduction
Another thing I have been working on early this session is exploring ways of obtaining flood assistance to help residents of Otter Tail County. For years on end now, the water level has been four to five feet higher than typical in some parts of our region. Homes and businesses have been hit hard and we continue to see, among other things, excessive pressure from groundwater destroying foundations.
Even with assistance, landowners still face paying hundreds and hundreds more each year in property taxes to help cover flood mitigation efforts. I will keep you posted as things unfold.
Please stay in touch and provide any helpful input you can regarding these or any other issues we face.