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Minnesota Legislature

Omnibus tax bill advances amid stark partisan disagreement

Paul Marquart, left, chair of the House Taxes Committee, and Rep. Greg Davids, the Republican lead, confer before the start of the April 10 meeting where members considered amendments to the omnibus tax bill. Photo by Paul Battaglia

The House Taxes Committee made short work of its 345-page omnibus tax bill Wednesday, approving it on a split-voice vote and sending it to the House Ways and Committee.

It is on that committee’s Friday agenda.

HF2125, as amended, is sponsored by the committee chair, Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth). It differs little from what was presented at Tuesday’s committee meeting. But it did undergo some slight revisions Wednesday, with seven amendments adopted.

The most significant amendment would clear the way for a Duluth development project similar to what is currently underway with Rochester’s Destination Medical Center. It would establish a “regional exchange district,” clarify bonding authority and sales tax policy related to it, and afford Essentia Health and St. Luke’s Hospital similar tax increment financing provisions to those accorded the Rochester project.

Other approved amendments would:

  • make clear that counties may fund more than one project with the proceeds of a particular tax or bond;
  • clarify how owners of rental property must provide “rental market information” to tenants;
  • extend a deadline for the city of Waubun to file its 2017 financial reports with the state auditor and thus receive its local government aid (“We have done this numerous times in the past” for other cities, said Marquart);
  • clarify language concerning the rehabilitation of the Minnesota Museum of American Art;
  • allow the committee’s minority lead to seek an incidence impact analysis from the nonpartisan House Research Department; and
  • clean up technical language throughout the bill.

Rep. John Petersburg (R-Waseca) expressed disappointment that the tax bill didn’t have “enticements for investment in affordable housing.” Both he and the committee’s Republican lead, Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston), spoke of concern with the level of spending in the bill.

“I must hand it to my friends on the other side of the aisle,” said Davids. “They have accomplished their goal of raising taxes. In fact, they’re raising them over $12 billion over the next four years. … Some would consider that wage theft, no matter how you slice it. … We have a body (the Republican-controlled Senate) committed toward raising no taxes. So I wish you luck, Mr. Chair. You probably have the toughest job in the Legislature.”

Marquart responded that the bill does much to help farmers, seniors and working families, “greatly simplifies the tax code,” and offers a lot of property tax relief.

“Everything that was in the bill, we heard and had good discussion on,” said Marquart. “There are 40 Republican provisions in the bill. There are a number that are very bipartisan. … What this tax bill does is provide the investments to continue Minnesota forward.”

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