Ingebrigtsen: Senate tax plan unveiled
Editor's note: The following is a legislative update written by State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria.
It's been a very long week here in St. Paul. Lots of legislation is moving forward. This week's highlights include the completion of the K-12 education bill as well as the HHS bill. Each of those bills had lengthy debate on the floor. Session wraps up on the 20th of May. Please contact me with any concerns you might have.
Senate Tax Plan
This week Senate Democrats unveiled the balance of their nearly $2 billion tax increase proposal. Details of the tax plan includes an expansion of the sales tax to everyday items like clothing, over-the-counter medications and auto repair, an increase in the cigarette tax, increased business taxes, and a $1.2 billion income tax increase by increasing the current 7.85% top bracket by 20% to 9.4%. Also included was a new 13% sports memorabilia tax. While the income tax increase was widely anticipated, Senate Democrats opted to take a different approach with their third tier increase than the new fourth tier rate advanced by Governor Dayton.
The Senate DFL tax plan would create the fourth highest marginal tax rate in the country, and impacts married filers at just over $140,000 and single filers at about $79,000 of taxable income. We expect to take up the tax bill on the Senate Floor this week.
Senate Budget Plan
The State Senate has approved a variety of large spending bills over the past week that fund various parts of our state government's budget for education, health and human services, higher education, judiciary, state government, and environment, agriculture, commerce and jobs.
The Democrat's Education Budget Bill, while increasing spending by nearly one-half billion dollars, takes out graduation standards and teacher evaluations. This bill adds a new statewide property tax. Also this bill extends the current school shift which was promised by the DFL to be paid back during the campaign season.
Secondly, the Senate DFL Health and Human Services Omnibus Bill is a true example of misplaced priorities. Democrats are raising $3 billion in new taxes and fees to increase spending in every other budget area, including wasteful projects, and giving little priority to services for seniors, nursing homes, long-term care facilities and our most vulnerable citizens.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed the Omnibus Transportation Policy Bill (SF 1270), which includes numerous changes to traffic regulations. This would increase the default speed limit on two-lane state highways from 55 to 60 miles per hour, require MnDOT to sell unused parcels of real estate, and creates a MnDOT office to coordinate public-private partnerships. The bill passed on a vote of 48-19. The bill now moves on to conference committee for more consideration.
Governor Dayton has repeatedly said that bipartisan support is required for changes to our elections process. However, there are two pieces of legislation far along in the process that have yet to receive a single Republican vote. The election bills create a two-week voting period, authorize Minnesotans to vote by absentee ballot without an excuse, and reform the way voter fraud is investigated and prosecuted. Campaign finance reforms, including changes to how campaign donations and contributions are reported, as well as changing the amount of allowable contributions and candidate expenditures in our state elections are included in another bill.
Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture
The Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Finance Division was active in passing or debating a number of high profile bills this week. On Monday the committee also approved ongoing funding for Clean Energy Resource Teams and debated the controversial Omnibus Energy Bill which would mandate some utilities generate 2% of their power with solar panels as well as create additional subsidies for solar energy. It is expected the energy bill will be further debated next week.
On Tuesday the committee passed reforms to the Public Facilities Authority grant making process. The PFA awards grants to local units of government to improve wastewater treatment infrastructure and SF613, I along with Senator Westrom were happy to create this legislation, which will expand funding assistance for small communities. The committee also began discussions on Clean Water Legacy funding recommendations.
On Wednesday the committee debated and passed the Game & Fish Bill after removing controversial restrictions on sand mining in southeastern Minnesota. Also passed was the non-controversial Lands Bill which will authorize counties around the state to sell or exchange a number of publicly owned parcels that are better suited to be in private ownership. In that bill I was able to attach an amendment which allows scopes on muzzleloaders for the muzzleloader season
Ingebrigtsen encourages constituent input, and can be reached at (651) 297-8063, by mail at 143 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org