Here are a few items of note as we bring to a close another week of the 2014 legislative session.
MONDAY IS MNSURE DEADLINE
Monday is the deadline for Minnesotans to obtain for health insurance before facing fines. The current penalty for a family of four is at least $285 for failure to sign up. The penalty will increase to $695 per person in 2016.
Lackluster enrollment totals have dogged MNsure since its October inception. The 19-to-34 demographic has been especially slow to sign up, something that does not bode well for the program's sustainability. The latest reports indicate current enrollment for commercial plans is 36,176 which is 87 percent below projections we received at the time this program was becoming law. MNsure advocates have cited other higher numbers recently, but those include a number of people who were simply shifted from one government program to another. Those enrollees are not what will keep MNsure afloat, it's the commercial numbers and those continue to lag.
There already is a projected $5 million MNsure shortfall, but officials say enough federal start-up funding remains to cover that gap. All bets are off if we do not see a sharp spike in certain sectors of enrollment.
The governor recently signed into law a bill that, among other things, repeals three tax increases enacted last year. One thing that was somewhat lost in the hubub during passage is the fact a tax repeal on equipment repair is not retroactive. This means, for example, farmers who saved their receipts from costly equipment repairs last year will not be reimbursed even though the tax was only briefly on the books. We have enough revenue in projected surplus funds we could have accomplished this, but the majority decided against it even though 2013 was a tough year for farmers.
Other portions of that tax bill included new state tax codes to bring us in line with federal provisions. Click here for more information on the changes.
Minnesotans who have not yet filed their taxes but hope to capitalize on the newly available deductions are advised to wait until after April 3 to file, allowing time for updates to be entered. As for those who already have filed but would like to claim new deductions, there are three scenarios:
1. The Revenue Dept. will fix returns for citizens and send a letter to them outlining the updates they made.
2. Revenue will ask citizens to provide more information so the department can fix returns.
3. Revenue will notify citizens their returns cannot be fixed and amended versions will need to be filed.
These developments will help Minnesota taxpayers, but we could have done more. A second tax bill is shaping up in the House and we will see what that includes. Property-tax reductions would be helpful. I'll keep you posted.