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Minnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Lisa Demuth (R)

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Legislative report

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Dear Neighbor,

Congratulations to Blattner Energy of Avon for raising more than $140,000 for local food shelves during its eighth-annual drive! This is an outstanding accomplishment and a great display of community engagement.

As for news from the House, earlier this week, the legislature voted unanimously in the House and Senate to approve emergency funding for the Department of Health to continue their response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The bill included protections for taxpayers that would require money to be paid back to the general fund if it goes unspent. The legislature is considering additional steps to ensure our state and health care system can respond as quickly and effectively as possible — Minnesotans should have confidence that legislators, the governor, and state agencies are working closely based on the expert recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

As this situation unfolds, social media could be rife with misinformation so please continue to rely only on information from trusted sources. Your best sources for up-to-date information are the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) websites.

MDH: COVID-19 Home Page

MDH: Prepare and Prevent COVID-19

MDH: Situation Update for COVID-19

CDC: COVID-19 Home Page

CDC: COVID-19 FAQ

Proposing tax relief

Legislation I have authored to make childcare more affordable for Minnesotans is part of a package of tax relief House Republicans unveiled Monday.

My proposal would help families dealing with high childcare expenses by increasing the income threshold for the dependent-care credit from the current cap of $52,160 to $75,000, making thousands more families eligible for assistance paying childcare bills.

This issue of high childcare costs is something legislators hear about all over the state. Many families are struggling to afford childcare, which is why we’re proposing to expand eligibility for the childcare tax credit – sometimes called the dependent care credit.

In addition to my childcare bill, we should end the state tax on social security and the proposal we put forward does that. It is exciting to think about what a game-changer that would be for our seniors, especially those on fixed incomes. Minnesota is in the slim minority that taxes social security and this is our chance to fix that, making our state more welcoming to retirees.

In addition to my bill on childcare, the tax-relief package includes:

  • Eliminating state taxes on social security benefits. House Republicans successfully pushed to eliminate social security taxes for 250,000-plus Minnesotans in 2017, this provision would finish that effort and eliminate social security taxes entirely.
  • Doubling the student loan tax credit. House Republicans created the first-ever student loan tax credit of up to $500 for college graduates making payments on their loans. Their new proposal would double that credit to $1,000.
  • Tax Fairness for Farmers and Main Street Businesses. Last session’s failure to enact full Section 179 conformity is causing massive unexpected tax bills for farmers and businesses. House Republicans are proposing to fully conform and make it retroactive so farmers and businesses are not stuck with tax bills many simply cannot afford.
  • Property Tax Relief. By putting an additional $50 million into school equalization aid, this would effectively result in a property tax cut for Minnesota homeowners by reducing reliance on local property tax revenue.
  • Increasing the Personal Exemption. Every Minnesotan would benefit from an approximately $1,300 increase to the personal exemption.

Closing the achievement gap

Efforts to close our state’s woeful achievement gap in education continue. I recently participated in a press conference and attended an all-day symposium on this very important subject and here’s more:

A recent study conducted by the Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found that the state’s achievement gap is among the worst in the entire nation and that disparities are evident across race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Issues such as housing, food insecurity and poverty in general are highly detrimental to our children’s academic achievement.

Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, and Alan Page, former Minnesota Supreme Court justice, have made news with their efforts to shrink the achievement gap and they delivered some interesting comments at the symposium. It is important to note the constitutional amendment proposed regarding the equal right to quality public education would not prevent homeschooling or other private school options for families.

Kashkari said Minnesota’s achievement gap has reached crisis levels and that nibbling around the edges won’t cut it, that we need to hit it hard. Page put it well when he said the achievement gap is a systemic adult failure and we need to meet children where they are and educate them, as opposed to trying to fix cultural/societal problems and then educate our children.

That’s a lot to soak in, but the bottom line is we need to give a serious look at taking some different, innovative approaches because what we’re doing now clearly is not working. Minnesota takes great pride in having an outstanding educational system, yet our glaring achievement gap remains a huge issue.

It’s a problem that has lasted for far too long and should be addressed this session so that our children have a clearer path to prosperity. They deserve better. House Republicans are working on bills to help close the state’s achievement gap and those were discussed at the press conference I attended.

I will pass along more as this work continues and, as always, your thoughts and ideas are welcome.

Sincerely,

Lisa

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