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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL)

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Rep. Michael Nelson - Legislative Report - March 5, 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

We’re just starting our second week here in St. Paul, and it seems as if there has already been enough activity to fill an entire session.

We just received the results from a couple of reports that studied how the legislation we passed in the 2013 session affected property taxes around the state. I’m happy to report that property taxes will go down this year for the first time in more than a decade.

One of the studies was conducted by non-partisan House Research, and it found that homeowners overall will see a $161 million decrease in ’14, a whopping 4.9 percent decrease over ’13.

Small businesses will also see a net property tax decrease of 2.1 percent and renters, 0.1 percent.

Direct property tax refunds are expected to increase by $133 million in 2014. This direct property tax relief passed by the legislature in 2013 will increase direct refunds to nearly 500,000 homeowners and renters.

One of the biggest promises we made in 2012 was property tax relief for Minnesotans. We did that. And we aren’t done yet.

I encourage you to see if you are eligible for the Homestead Credit Refund or Renter’s Credit. Some of you who may not have been eligible in the past may be eligible this year due to expanded refunds and credits. You can find more information on eligibility and how file for your property tax refund at the Department of Revenue website.

The “unsession”

Outraged by illegally sized bug deflectors? Concerned by drivers tooling around city streets in neutral? Feel our state’s telegraph industry needs more oversight?

There are thousands upon thousands of pages of outdated or arcane laws, regulations and statutes on the books. Every session, more pages are added. As times change, so do our laws.

But there is little editing. When laws are updated, they’re usually just stacked on top of the old ones. That’s why Governor Dayton called on the legislature to eliminate these outdated and unenforceable laws as a cornerstone of the “unsession.” At the same time, he tasked the legislature to cut the technical jargon that clutters our statues and often makes them nearly impossible to understand.

The Governor’s proposals would eliminate more than 1,000 of these obsolete, redundant or incomprehensible statutes.

For instance:

·       It’s a misdemeanor to carry fruit in an illegally sized container.

·       There are more state laws regulating the telegraph industry than there are laws regulating the Internet.

·       There are laws that regulate the size and color of bug deflectors.

·       It is illegal to drive a car in neutral (which, of course, it is impossible to do).

Eliminating many of these arcane regulations will make our government more transparent.

But there is more to the unsession than scratching outdated laws. Many of the proposals are focused on making government more user-friendly for small businesses and families.

Tax relief on the way

Last week, we learned that Minnesota has a budget surplus of more than $1.2 billion, a $408 million improvement since the December budget forecast. The office of Minnesota Management and Budget’s February economic forecast also projected a $2.6 billion surplus in the 2016-17 biennium.

Our state is recovering faster than the rest of the country, and we have you to thank. Hard-working Minnesotans drive our economy, and we see the change happening all around us. Our incomes are growing, our confidence is increasing, and our businesses are adding jobs – 50,000 last year alone.

The DFL did its part by keeping its promise to craft a budget without tricks and gimmicks. We did that, asking the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans to pay their fair share of taxes. Because of the hard decisions we made, we paid back the debt we owed our schools, fully funded all-day kindergarten, froze tuition for our public college students and, as I mentioned earlier, lowered property taxes statewide.

This session, we’re looking to give a break to our hard-working middle class. The  House Tax Committee already passed a bill to cut taxes for middle-class families and repeal business-to-business taxes.

The bill would reduce taxes for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans, largely by conforming to federal tax changes. Just by doing that, we’d provide:

·       $111 million for middle-income, married families by conforming to federal tax code to eliminate the “Marriage Penalty.” More than 650,000 families will see an average tax decrease of $120.

·       $36 million for working families by increasing the phase-out range for Working Family Credit to match Earned Income Tax Credit. More than 50,000 working families will see an average decrease of $300.

·       $26.4 million for students and parents who paying for college and students paying off loans through education-related provisions, including qualified tuition and related expenses.

·       $3.9 million for new homeowners through a deduction for mortgage insurance premiums. More than 80,000 new homeowners will see an average tax cut of $60.

·       $7.2 million for homeowners that refinanced or had a short sale. 

·       $1.8 million for Minnesota families with dependents. More than 25,000 families with household incomes below $38,570 will see a $65 tax decrease.

·       $400,000 for families adopting children. Employer-provided adoption assistance is excluded.

·       $1.1 million for 60,000 teachers through classroom-expense deduction for educators.

I hope that providing this much-needed relief will prove bipartisan, and we can deliver it as soon as possible.