Greetings from the Capitol! Legislative work in committees and on the House floor is increasing as we draw nearer to the first deadlines - March 20 and 27 - for bills to be heard. Below is some economic news - the revised budget forecast and the recent tax incidence study that shows taxes going down for 9 in 10 Minnesotans - as well as an report on my bill on the Ford site, as well as a recent "transit challenge" in which I participated.
Progressive Policies Lead to Strong Economic Results
On February 27, the state economist released the latest Budget & Economic Forecast. It shows that Minnesota has a $1.9 billion budget surplus before inflation (roughly $1 billion post-inflation). This comes after the last Legislature, under DFL leadership, inherited a budget deficit. In my view, much of the credit for this swing from deficit to significant surplus is due to policies enacted by that DFL Legislature. It’s budget was responsible and balanced, investing in education and job growth, raising taxes on the top 2% of income earners while lowering property taxes for middle- and lower-income Minnesotans. With strong job and wage growth - the Twin Cities area has the lowest unemployment rate in the country - we are now benefiting from those policies.
Another recent report supports this conclusion. The 2015 Tax Incidence Study, from the state Department of Revenue, indicates that overall state and local tax rates are declining for nine out of ten taxpayers (those earning less than $140,690). State and local taxes are still regressive, contrary to popular thinking - lower-income residents pay a higher proportion of their income in such taxes - but they are less regressive than they were. For more analysis of the Tax Incidence Study's findings, you can read more here.
Now that the official budget forecast is available, the House, Senate and Governor will put together proposed budgets for each major finance area. That information will be posted in the coming days…
Ford Site Flexibility Advances
My bill (HF 609) to allow the City of St. Paul flexibility in the possible use of tax-increment financing (TIF) at the former Ford site is steadily advancing. Last Wednesday, March 11, it was heard in the Property Taxes & Local Government Finance Division, on which I serve. It has been laid over for hoped-for inclusion in the division report to the full Tax Committee. Comments at the March 11 hearing were generally favorable; committee members seemed to recognize the unique nature and regional importance of the site.
In addition, I continue to participate in city-led planning for the site, including an upcoming public meeting on April 16 on transportation options for the site, including bike, pedestrian, and transit travel. For more information on planning for the Ford site, sign up for updates here.
Spreading the Word on Transit
During the week ending March 6, many legislators participated in the #HowWeRollMN Transit Challenge, riding transit to experience the realities of today's transit system. I often ride transit, but took advantage of the opportunity to spread the word about the benefits and the challenges. Check out this tweet about doing email on the way to the Capitol and this one about a constituent meeting I had on the Green Line. Hope to see you on the bus!
Keep in Touch
Please don't hesitate to contact my office - info below - to share your thoughts on legislative issues. I'd love to see you at the Capitol or to hear from you by phone or email. Below is a great photo taken by House photographers from a tour I gave to a local scout troop on March 9th.
Thanks so much for the honor of serving our community,
State Representative, District 64B
321 State Office Building