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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R)

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Tax relief, ditch mowing among bills House passed this week

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dear Neighbor,

It’s been a busy week in St. Paul, with the session’s first omnibus finance bills for the new state budget moving through the process. The full body on Thursday approved a bill providing $1.35 billion in tax relief over the next two years, including a $270 million reduction on the state Social Security income tax.

Eliminating the tax on Social Security has been a battle we’ve been fighting as long as I’ve been in the Legislature. We’re one of the few states to fully tax Social Security and it really leaves us at a disadvantage in terms of keeping seniors in our state with dollars in their pockets. I am pleased this provision is in the bill.

Other provisions in the bill include:

  • $203 million to reduce the extra state property tax on small businesses, exempting the first $200,000 in property value from the extra tax on businesses and freezing its automatic inflator.
  • $35 million going toward modifying the child and dependent care credit. A family of four with childcare expenses would be estimated to receive $660 in relief.
  • More than $125 million would go toward addressing college affordability. Families saving for college using 529 Savings Plans will benefit from expanded subtractions and credits. In addition, 77,500 students will receive, on average, a $640 reduction in their taxes through a first-in-the-nation tax credit for student loan payments.
  • $42 million to reduce the burden agriculture land owners pay for school bond referendums. Farms also would benefit from a measure conforming the state death tax to the federal exclusion.
  • $100 million in direct property tax relief for homeowners and renters.

Another omnibus finance bill the House approved this week relates to the environment and natural resources. A key component would delay the enforcement of buffer strips until 2018. This would allow for more time to resolve significant issues that have arisen regarding the implementation process.

In other news, this week the House also approved a bill I authored to prevent state agencies from implementing ditch-mowing regulations. Approval came after a compromise was reached on an amended version of the bill.

My original bill (H.F. 124) would have prohibited state agencies such as MnDOT from placing new mowing regulations on ditches. Instead of an all-out ban, the amended form (S.F. 218) establishes a moratorium until May of 2018 on new mowing rules along state highways – excluding county and township roads.

The 13-month window is not his first choice, but it would allow more time to consider a long-range plan.

I still would rather see an all-out prohibition on this overreach, but we need to be able to send the governor a bill he will sign into law and this is the compromise we reached with his administration. The public would have more time to express concerns over just how out-of-touch the bureaucrats are on this issue so we can come back and look at some permanent fixes.

The bill is in response to MnDOT last November indicating it plans to change its statewide permitting standards for mowing and baling in ditches along Minnesota’s state roadways. MnDOT’s proposed changes would add unnecessary, impractical burdens on a significant number of property owners who have successfully managed their ditches for decades on end.

The House approved the amended proposal (S.F. 218) 106-23. It is now in the hands of Senate.

Look for more news from the Capitol soon as the House takes up bills related to other portions of the state budget.