Hello from the Capitol, where passage of a tax bill and an effort to provide long-term care givers a much-needed raise have made recent news.
The tax bill (H.F. 1777) has a couple of main highlights. First, it brings Minnesota’s tax code into line with some provisions of the federal tax code in tax year 2013. It also includes other major provisions starting in 2014. Some of this work could have been completed earlier this year or during last year’s special session, providing citizens and tax preparers alike more time before the April 15 deadline. Now, state officials are asking many people to wait until April 3 to file to ensure tax code updates are in place.
This tax bill also repeals the sales tax on commercial/industrial repair, warehousing and telecommunications machinery and equipment starting April 1. I strongly opposed these tax increases going into law last year and am pleased to see the majority has recognized at least some of its mistakes.
In total, the bill returns $443 million to taxpayers and puts $150 million in budget reserves. This is a start, but does not go nearly far enough. The bottom line is there still is a $1.7 billion tax increase for the biennium. This translates to $300 for every man, woman and child in Minnesota.
This tax bill also leaves more than half of the projected $1.2 billion surplus available to spend as Gov. Mark Dayton and the legislative majorities see fit. People I speak with would like to see a larger share of the surplus returned to taxpayers and/or be put in state reserve accounts.
In other news, House Republicans succeeded in putting a bill to help our long-term care providers in position to come to the House for a full vote at any time. The proposal – called the 5-Percent Bill – would increase funding for the home and community based services and intermediate care facilities for Minnesotans with developmental disabilities.
Those who care for our state’s most vulnerable residents have been shortchanged on funding increases for years and have made great sacrifices during budget downturns. Using surplus funds to give them a much-needed raise would not only help them get caught up wage-wise, but also would show appreciation for their work and could attract additional quality workers to this needed profession.