House Republicans recently offered an amendment week that 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. This would give Minnesotans more time to review the premium rates this fall before selecting a plan when open enrollment begins. Last year, the premium rates were released in early September. Minnesota consumers deserve information, the earlier the better, about the cost and choices available to them. Unfortunately, the majority refused to allow the amendment to be discussed.
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.
MINNESOTA’S BUSINESS TAX CLIMATE FOURTH-WORST IN NATION
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.
On a related note, Tuesday marks Tax Freedom Day in Minnesota, the day where we collectively have earned enough money to pay for federal, state and local governments. Only four states take longer to reach Tax Freedom Day and all of those are on the coasts. Connecticut and New Jersey will not reach this milestone until May 9. Louisiana reached Tax Freedom Day first, on March 30.
SPEND ANOTHER $100 MILLION?
Gov. Mark Dayton recently told legislative leaders he’s willing to spend another $100 million from our state’s $1.2 billion budget surplus. Keep in mind, legislative Democrats increased state spending 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. This could push us even further toward the likes of Connecticut and New Jersey.