Hello from St. Paul, where we are putting the finishing touches on another week of the 2014 legislative session. Here is a quick rundown of some recent headlines.
MINNESOTA’S BUSINESS TAX CLIMATE RANKS LOWLY
The Tax Foundation released information that Minnesota’s tax climate is worsening. According to the organization’s State Business Tax Climate Index, our state checks in at 47 out of 50, down two spots from last year. The index compares the states in five areas of taxation that impact business: corporate taxes, individual income taxes, sales taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, and taxes on property, including residential and commercial property. Only California, New Jersey, and New York ranked lower.
CONSUMERS DESERVE INFO
Minnesota's version of Obamacare - MNsure - has been a struggle in its first several months of existence. House Republicans offered an amendment this week to give Minnesotans time to review the premium rates this fall before selecting a plan when open enrollment begins. The amendment would require insurance premiums, for plans inside and outside of MNsure, to be set by the Department of Commerce and released to the public by Oct. 1. Last year, the premium rates were released in early September. Consumers deserve information, the earlier the better, about the cost and choices available to them. Unfortunately, this amendment was blocked.
BONDING BILL ON HORIZON
One of the biggest bills remaining under consideration this session is one that would pay for construction projects throughout the state. We had an agreement at the end of the 2013 session to bond for $846 million this year. Some in St. Paul want to spend even more, while others say $846 million is too much as it is. Gov. Mark Dayton proposes $1 billion in state spending. The chair of the Capital Investment Committee has multiple bonding proposals introduced, including some as high as $1.3 billion. We haven't seen the final proposal at this point, so we're still waiting to review that. Regardless of the price tag, a bonding bill should be focused on supporting priorities like roads, bridges and other infrastructural necessities. House Republicans issued an alternative that would pay for necessary projects and honor our previous $846 million agreement.
GOVERNOR TELLS LAWMAKERS TO SPEND ANOTHER $100 MILLION
On Thursday, the governor told legislative leaders he’s willing to spend another $100 million from our state’s $1.2 billion budget surplus. Keep in mind, state spending increased by $3 billion just last year, and the Minnesota House recently passed a bill that would spend another $1 billion over the next three years.
CONCERNING IRS INFO
A number of constituents contacted me this week regarding reports that IRS officials received bonuses despite owing federal taxes. Hardworking, honest taxpayers deserve better and I share your concerns. An audit shows thousands of employees who recently had been disciplined received a total of more than $2.8 million in bonuses. These were given to employees who have engaged in misconduct ranging from willful understatement of tax liabilities over multiple years, late payment of tax liabilities, underreporting of income and more.
I will keep you posted as these and other issues develop. The session is scheduled to end in less than one month.