January was a busy month at the Capitol! I would like to take a moment to update you on some of the major issues that have been coming across my desk over the first weeks of the legislative session.
This year I was elected by my colleagues to serve as a Deputy Minority Leader and I was appointed to serve on the Rules & Legislative Administration Committee and the Job Growth & Energy Affordability Policy& Finance Committee.
Legislative Action: Tax Conformity
The House and Senate took up the issue of tax conformity early in January to keep tax filing from being effected. In order to keep tax filing simple and provide the most savings to tax payers the legislature must apply federal changes to the Minnesota tax code. This is called “tax conformity.” The legislation increased several deductions, returning about $20 million to Minnesota taxpayers. Deductions for higher education tuition, teacher classroom expenses, and mortgage insurance premiums were among the items included. I was pleased to be a coauthor of this bipartisan legislation and I am happy to report that Governor Dayton has already signed the bill into law!
There are several plans seeking to address the long-term lack of transportation investment in Minnesota that are currently circulating at the Capitol. Some of these plans include revenue increases, some seek to spend down our budget reserves and use money from the general fund. The contrasts between these plans, the House GOP plan, and the Governor will become clearer by the end of February with the second budget forecast, but the Governor released his transportation proposal last week. It is an ambitious plan that invests significant new revenue in Minnesota roads, bridges, and transit over the next 10 years. I will continue to update you as these plans evolve, but it is important that we find a funding solution to maintain and repair our current infrastructure, as well as plan for the needs of the one million residents that are expected to move to Minnesota in the coming decade.
The Governor’s Budget
Governor Dayton released his budget at the end of January. He emphasized the positive impact that our current surplus can make on the lives of Minnesota children and families. His budget focuses on early education, childcare tax credits, and E-12 school funding, along with many other areas of state government. If you would like a quick summary of the Governor’s proposal you can click here, and for more in-depth information you can see more budget proposal links here.
Property Tax Refund Reminder
Every year, thousands of Minnesotans who are eligible for property tax relief don't take advantage of it. I’m committed to ensuring that all of the people in our district who deserve refunds for their property taxes receive them. Please look over the requirements provided by the Department of Revenue here and see if you qualify, and apply for the refund if you do. If you haven’t checked in a few years, I encourage you to check again to see if the changes made to the Homestead Credit or Renter’s Credit in the last two years now qualify you for a refund. In the last two years, we increased the funding available for these programs to provide additional property tax relief. As a result of changes in the program, more people will qualify for refunds than in the past and those who are eligible to receive refunds will, in some cases, receive more money back.
I encourage you to contact me on any legislative issues. During the legislative session, you can reach me by email at Rep.Melissa.Hortman@house.mnor by phone at 651-296-4280. Thanks! I hope that 2015 is off to a great start for you and your families.