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Ingebrigtsen: Democrats propose list of tax increases

Editor's note: The following is a weekly update from Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria. It's been a busy week at the Capitol many different types of legislation moving forward. My focus is on creating a more efficient and effective government.

Editor's note: The following is a weekly update from Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria.

It's been a busy week at the Capitol many different types of legislation moving forward. My focus is on creating a more efficient and effective government. I'm committed to working together with Democrats to eliminate wasteful government spending and helping to build a healthier economy.

This past week, Democrats in the legislature formally announced their plans to add taxes to over-the-counter medication, haircuts, beer, and even higher taxes on water. They're also proposing new car insurance taxes, vehicle wheelage taxes, new utility taxes and fund solar projects.

Nowhere on the long list of tax increases proposals are their ideas to reduce the cost of government and make it more efficient and effective. In fact, this week the Democrats voted to eliminate the Sunset commission which was created to reduce wasteful spending. That commission was created just two years ago and was signed into law by the Governor. That very same day 34 democrats voted to give themselves a 35% pay increase. We've also seen proposals to spend taxpayer dollars on wasteful spending items like snowmaking machines in Northern Minnesota and the creation of a new 11-member commission to determine paint colors on bridges.

Facts on the tax proposal:

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This week, with DFL only support, the Senate Tax Reform Division approved tax recommendations expected to be included in a larger Senate omnibus tax bill. The Division report increases taxes by about $400 million of the $2 billion total Senate tax increase plan, and notably expands the sales tax, and increases cigarette and business taxes.

As highlighted last week, the Division report includes many of the sales tax proposals contained in Governor Dayton's initial budget, though ultimately removed from the Governor's plan in light of public opposition. The Division report calls for an overall reduction in the general sales tax rate, combined with new sales taxes on goods and services including clothing, over the counter drugs, personal services including haircuts, and auto repair. The Division report also includes a $0.94 per pack increase in the cigarette tax, similar to cigarette tax increase proposals by Governor Dayton and House Democrats.

Health and Human Services

The Health and Human Services Finance Bill, SF1034, passed out of the Health and Human Services Finance committee and is working its way through other committees this week. It will likely be up on the Senate floor next week. While this bill makes a $152 million reduction to forecasted spending, the bill actually spends $500,000 more in the next two years. There are significant concerns with the prioritization of funding items in this bill, as Democrats are wanting to spend around $2.8 billion more in their overall budget, yet are not interested in providing an increase to those who are the most in need. In fact burdening them even further with outrageous tax increases.

Transportation

The Transportation Finance Committee passed its Omnibus Transportation Finance Bill this week. The next stop for the bill will be in the full Finance Committee. The bill currently includes a sales tax on gasoline (which equates to an eight cents per-gallon gas tax increase that will escalate with prices), an annual county wheelage tax of up to $20 per vehicle, a $3 increase for drivers licenses, a 3/4-cent Metropolitan sales tax for transit, a city street maintenance fee, and an increase in the motor vehicle sales tax. In total, the bill raises over $1,000,000,000 in new taxes in FY 2016-17.

Education

The Senate Finance Committee, passed, and re-referred the Omnibus Education Finance Bill to the Committee on Taxes, but not until a surprise amendment delaying implementation of Minnesota's Teacher Evaluation Law passed. Over objections of the Republican members. Under the amendment, instead of regular evaluations of public school teachers beginning with the 2014-15 school year, the evaluation requirements would not become effective until 2015-16.

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Environment

On Monday, the Environment Finance Committee passed the large omnibus environment, natural resources, agriculture, commerce, energy, jobs, and economic development appropriations bill (SF1607.) On Thursday, the full Finance Committee followed suit and passed the bill to the floor for expected floor debate today (Friday). This bill would increase general fund spending by more than 25% while providing special treatment for unions by authorizing two extra years of unemployment benefits for locked out employees - including professional athletes.

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State Senator Bill 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 email at sen.bill.ingebrigtsen@senate.mn .

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