By Rep. Paul Anderson
After a long week end with 14-hour sessions both Saturday and Sunday, the Minnesota Legislature adjourned a few minutes past midnight Monday morning. A collection of what I'd call smaller bills was passed during those sessions, but missing from the line-up of legislation approved by both chambers was a bonding bill and any type of tax bill.
It's expected the governor will call legislators back to St. Paul in mid-June to extend his peacetime emergency, and work to pass a bonding bill will again take place at that time. The absence of tax legislation is troubling for farmers and other small businesses because they face tax liabilities from two years ago due to a change in federal law. And because conforming with Section 179 depreciation carries a cost to the state, its future became tenuous recently when a new financial forecast called for state revenue to fall dramatically because of the Covid-19 situation. As a result, the projected state surplus disappeared and became a multi-billion dollar deficit.
There was a vote taken on a bonding bill Saturday, but because of its enormous size, it's chances of passage were slim. Most bonding bills passed since I've served in the Legislature have carried price tags around $1 billion. This one came in at a hefty $2.5 billion and failed to secure passage in the House. What makes passing a bonding bill even more challenging is the fact is takes more than a simple majority to pass. A super majority of 60 percent is needed for passage, which means there must be support from both parties. I felt that with the state facing the need to make reductions in spending to balance its budget, this was not the time to take on that amount of additional debt. It's my hope that we can work together next month to come up with a smaller bonding bill and get it passed.
Most businesses deemed "non-essential" will be allowed to open for in-store operations this week. Notably absent from that list are bars and restaurants, along with churches. A confrontation is shaping up in Albany where a bar owner has publicly stated he's going to open for business, practicing social distancing. The Attorney General then said the bar owner would face fines up to $25,000 per location and per instance for every day he's open without the governor's approval. A Go-Fund-Me page was established over the weekend, and it quickly amassed over $173,000 in pledges to finance a legal challenge to the executive order. It's estimated that the cost to carry this all the way to the state Supreme Court would be over $100,000.