It was another busy week in St. Paul filled with long floor debates and late nights as the House approved a number of omnibus finance and policy bills. With initial passage of these large bills now complete, we are prepared to move into conference committee where discussions between the House, Senate, and Governor Dayton will take place in order to come to final agreement. While not every provision included in these bills will become law, they represent the House’s position as we enter final negotiations.
Here are some highlights from a handful of the bills we passed this week.
On Monday, the House approved its federal tax conformity bill. The bill simplifies Minnesota’s tax code and lowers taxes for 2.1 million Minnesotans while conforming to changes in the federal code as a result of last December’s congressional tax reform.
The bill includes a number of reforms including cutting the second tier income tax rate from 7.05% to 6.75% by tax year 2020. This would mark the first income tax rate reduction in Minnesota since 2000. Stay tuned on this as it is sure to be a crucial part of the end-of-session negotiations.
Tuesday brought the passage of both a public safety and transportation bill.
The public safety bill reaffirms our commitment to keeping Minnesotans safe. We work towards this goal by protecting law enforcement officers and the communities they serve, keeping Minnesota’s roads safe, cracking down on dangerous sex offenders, and devoting more resources to protecting our children.
Most notably is a provision that increases criminal penalties for protesters who illegally obstruct highways, airport access, or transit systems.
Such behavior is already illegal under state law, but the current criminal penalty does little to deter individuals from shutting down freeways and light rail transit. Let me be clear, I am a strong supporter of citizens’ right to peacefully protest, but that does not include blocking traffic or transit vehicles.
The transportation bill we approved builds on the successes of last year’s bill which saw the largest single investment in roads and bridges in state history without raising the gas tax.
This year’s bill utilizes surplus funds leveraged with trunk highway bonds to spend $385 million on transportation needs this year alone.
• $250 million in Trunk Highway bonds
• $145 million in Trunk Highway bonds and $10 million in cash for Corridors of Commerce program projects
• $25 million for county roads, $6.6 million for city roads, $2 million for township roads
• Additional $7 million for Small Cities Assistance Program for cities under 5,000
• $9 million to deputy registrars for MNLARS reimbursement aid
Another encouraging development on the transportation front relates to a proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that may be on the ballot this fall.
Authored by Transportation Finance Committee Chairman Paul Torkelson, HF 4437 proposes to amend the state’s constitution to dedicate sales tax revenues from motor vehicle repair and replacement parts toward road and bridge construction.
The bill came late in the process so it remains to be seen if there is enough time to get it passed by both chambers, but encouraging progress is being made in the Senate and the House.
For years, Minnesota has seen a budget shortfall for our roads and bridges and it only makes sense to dedicate the sales tax revenues from motor vehicle repairs towards our roads and bridges.
Finally, on Thursday, the House passed another series of omnibus finance bills. Notable among these was the state government finance bill which allocated the state’s share of funding to build three new veterans’ homes in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston.
If you have any questions regarding the bills and provisions discussed in this update or any other piece of legislation that I may not have mentioned, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. It would be great to connect!
I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4333 or by email at email@example.com.
Have a great weekend,