Hello from St. Paul,
At this point in the session, my colleagues and I have been spending more time on the house floor and less time in committees. We have begun voting on budget bills and preparing for budget and policy negotiations with the Governor. One of the budget bills that was taken up for a vote on the House floor this week was a $1.35 billion tax relief proposal for students, farmers, seniors, and middle class Minnesotans. The bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 80-52.
Highlights of the bill include:
- $269 million in relief for Minnesota’s senior citizens by increasing the income limit at which social security income is taxable. Under current law, seniors making more than $32,000 for a married couple or $25,000 for an individual must pay taxes on social security income. Under the House proposal, that threshold would increase to $61,000 for a married couple and $46,500 for a single filer in tax year 2018 and $72,000 for a married couple and $56,000 for a single filer in tax year 2019. As a result, by 2019 nearly 284,000 senior citizen tax returns (single and married filing jointly) would be eligible to receive a tax exemption on their social security benefits with an average tax reduction of $710.
- More than $125 million to address college affordability through a first-in-the-nation tax credit for student loan payments, along with subtractions and credits for families saving for college using 529 Savings Plans. Through the student debt tax credit, 77,500 students will receive on average a $640 reduction in their taxes.
- $42 million in relief for farmers by reducing the burden farmers and agriculture land owners pay for school bond referendums. Approximately 240,000 farmers could receive property tax relief to reduce their disproportionate share of school district debt service. Farms will also benefit from a measure conforming the state death tax to the federal exclusion which will help them pass on their family farms to the next generation.
- $35 million for families with young children by modifying the child & dependent care credit. A family of four earning $50,000 a year will receive an addition $1,200 toward their childcare expenses.
- $203 million in relief for hometown businesses by exempting the first $200,000 in property value from the extra tax on businesses and freezing its automatic inflator. This helps every business owner reinvest in their business, protecting 30,000 Minnesota jobs.
- $100 million in direct property tax relief for homeowners and renters.
- Full funding for Local Government Aid/County Program Aid at current levels.
Environment and Natural Resources:
The House also passed the Environment and Natural Resources Omnibus Bill this week. This bill streamlines environmental review, reins in government spending through agency efficiencies, and protects farmers and landowners from government overreach.
I have heard some concerns regarding how this bill affects buffer implementation funding. I want to be clear that this bill does not cut funding for the buffer program, it just transfers it to the Clean Water Fund (which was the funding mechanism for this program last biennium) from the General Fund. I also want you to know that I have reached out to many stakeholders regarding the buffer law: farmers, clean water advocates, local Soil and Water Boards, and county commissioners. The bill contains appropriate revisions to the buffer law and I anticipate this discussion will continue with the Senate and the Governor.
Some highlights of the bill include:
- Reforming the funding process of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) by creating more transparency on where and how efficiently funds are being used.
- Reforming the permitting process of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the MPCA, ensuring these agencies abide by the longstanding rulemaking process and don’t overstep the scope of their authority.
- Reforming the makeup of the Environmental Quality Board from statewide appointments to appointments by congressional district and narrows the focus of their work to environmental review and permitting, as it's a critical issue area that needs attention. Additionally, appointees will be required to have knowledge or experience in environmental review, so the input that is gathered is from people with real-world experience in these very complicated processes.
The Senate will be taking up their versions of the Tax and Environment bills in the coming days. The discrepancies between the bills will then be resolved in conference committee before they reach the Governor’s desk.
In closing, I’d like to congratulate all of our local high school athletes who have competed in section finals and state tournaments. You represent our schools and communities with pride! A particular shout out to the Goodhue High School Girls Basketball team for their State Championship!
If you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding anything related to state government, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or 651-296-8635.
I appreciate your comments and concerns as it helps me be a better representative.
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