The 2014 legislative session will begin Tuesday at the Capitol. This will be an extremely short session by previous standards, so make sure you don’t blink. Also, much of it will be shaped by the results of the Feb. 28 revenue projections coming from the Office of Management and Budget (MMB).
One of my top objectives this session is to reduce the tax burden on Minnesotans which will benefit increase paychecks and job growth. There is growing support for eliminating the new sales taxes Gov. Mark Dayton and Democrats passed last session on all businesses in warehousing, telecommunications and farm equipment repairs. I strongly encourage repeal of these new taxes which threaten jobs in these industries, and harm the viability of the industries themselves. I also support bills requiring that Minnesota income tax laws conform to federal tax laws – doing so would eliminate the marriage penalty on income taxes and the home foreclosure tax.
I’ll pass along more on those as things develop.
An area to watch closely this session will be transportation funding. One problem I have with the Democrats’ proposal is that they want $750 million/year in new revenue, most coming from a new transit sales tax of ¾ cents and a new 5-percent sales tax on wholesale gasoline. While their narrative leads us to believe 1) these taxes will go to roads and bridges, and 2) the wholesale tax won’t fall on consumers, I beg to differ. The wholesale tax likely will get passed along to consumers – and is not constitutionally dedicated to roads, so much of it could be diverted to transit such as light rail. MnDOT says we face a $12 billion funding gap, and this proposal is their solution. Click here for details of the 20-year plan.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has shared with me dialogue they’ve had on this proposal. The Chamber’s position, which I agree with, is our focus should be on bringing reforms and efficiencies to MnDOT and the transportation bureaucracy before the government goes back to taxpayers for more money. We need to make sure the billions we already spend on transportation are being but to the best-possible uses. Keep in mind it was just 2008 when Democrats put a 5-cent per gallon tax increase on gasoline, bringing the sales tax to 46.5 cents per gallon in Minnesota.
We also need to review road funding methods. For example, should counties receive a larger share of transportation dollars? Anoka County, for example, has impressed many with improvements along Highway 10 it has made using its own resources.
LEGISLATIVE PAY INCREASE?
A surprise awaits citizens as they cast their votes next fall. They will find on the ballot a question to vote up or down that would raise legislators’ pay! I voted against this, and I expect it will get a lot of talk in the upcoming months.
HUGO STORM WATER BILL
A bill I authored will significantly reduce reliance on groundwater resources for irrigation and lawn sprinkling.
Some serious potholes are showing up due to our severe winter. (Have you experienced the ones along Lake Drive?) The road folks at Anoka County tell me that the “hot mix” composition they use to fill potholes isn’t available for a few weeks yet, and the “cold mix” that is available is not really effective in patching these holes; however, they do want to hear from you about any really bad “wheel-breakers” that have developed. You can inform county engineer Doug Fischer of pothole issues by emailing Doug.Fischer@co.anoka.mn.us.
The new session is not a budget year by name, but there are still many important issues to address. Please continue providing me with input and I will keep you posted with periodic emails.