In the second week of the 2015 session at the Capitol, the focus was getting committees up and running – and taking care of organizing the 89th Session of the Legislature. Of the 134 members of the legislature, 25 of them are new state representatives. Move-ins, move-outs, new employee orientation – that's been part of these first two weeks.
One important action taken in Thursday's session of the House was to approve a bill regarding tax conformity and send it to the Senate. This recognizes that Minnesotans are beginning to preparing their federal and state income taxes for 2014. Details include:
TAX PROVISIONS UPDATED
This bill (H.F. 6) matches Minnesota’s tax code to many of the federal tax changes made since 2013. The changes are effective for all 2014 tax returns and, in total, provides $19.9 million in immediate tax relief to hardworking Minnesotans, including:
Higher education tuition deduction
$2.1 million in fiscal year 2015; about 9,000 returns; $70 average tax decrease
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
While this bill was fast-tracked, other important tax provisions remain a work in progress. For example, Minnesota’s estate tax remains excessively punitive. I am co-authoring a bill (H.F. 148) to match that tax with the more reasonable federal guidelines.
ADDRESSING MET COUNCIL’S SCOPE
A chief focus of mine this session will be the Met Council. Bills such as HF 75 (H.F. 75) would rein in the Council, an unelected body with taxing authority that I believe is overreaching its originally intended purpose.
Bipartisan support for this effort is growing, especially in light of the Met Council’s Thrive MSP 2040 housing and transportation plans, which have galvanized local county boards and city councils across the metro.
Formed in the 1960s, the Met Council is a governor-appointed board which was originally intended to do regional infrastructure planning– transportation, wastewater, parks and space, and aviation – for the seven-county metro area.
Suburban officials have been outspoken opponents of the Thrive plan, saying their concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Thrive provisions, they say, will increase highway congestion and drive up housing costs by mandating stacked residences and eliminating funds for priorities like roadwork.
I look forward to continued discussions on these subjects and more. As always, I welcome your input. The best way to reach me during this busy session is by emailing email@example.com.