With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

Legislature approves disaster relief bill, sends to Dayton

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Democrats, Republicans Updated: January 26, 2015 - 4:31 PM

The Legislature on Monday gave final approval to $17 million in recovery dollars for 47 Minnesota counties and three American Indian reservations that suffered damages and expense from flooding in June 2014. 

The House voted unanimously in favor of the legislation on Monday afternoon. The Senate also passed the measure unanimously, last week, meaning it now heads to the desk of Gov. Mark Dayton. He is expected to sign the bill. 

Several factors combined to bring on last June's floods, which were among the most severe and widespread in years in the state. A heavy snowpack from the previous winter, waves of torrential rain throughout spring and early summer, and a major June storm that brought nearly six inches of rain to many areas. 

Most of the counties and reservations involved already had 75 percent of their flood costs covered by the federal government, with the state filling in the remaining 25 percent. The counties of Dakota, Washington and Morrison did not qualify for federal assistance, so in those case the state is paying more of their expenses. 

The flood relief bill is the second passed in the 2015 session, following legislation that Dayton signed over the weekend to match Minnesota tax laws with federal counterparts. 

Gov. Dayton's budget proposal so far...

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, State budgets Updated: January 26, 2015 - 3:07 PM

The release Tuesday of Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal, in the works for weeks now, will set the framework for budget negotiations and will make clear the governor's priorities.

Dayton so far has offered a few details of his goals. Here's a breakdown of what has been unveiled so far:

-- $100 million in child-care and caregiver tax credits: Households earning up to $124,000 would be eligible for the credit, which would give direct tax relief averaging $481 per family to about 130,000 families statewide. The credit also would apply to dependent care for the disabled and elderly. 

-- $372 million for education. Dayton late last week at a child advocacy conference said the state funds would go toward early childhood scholarships, pre-kindergarten programs, and Head Start programs. Part of the money would go toward raising the per-pupil funding formula. 

-- $44 million for human services aimed at Minnesota children's needs, particularly families in need, Dayton said Friday. Another $116 million would also go to human services, though, this portion would be aimed at the needs of the adult population. 

-- $30 million for the University of Minnesota Medical School. From colleague Abby Simons: "The money would pay for 50 research faculty members over the course of eight years, improving research and attracting the best and brightest students. Dayton said the proposed $30 million — $5 million next year and $25 million in 2017 — would be only a start. He would encourage the Legislature to invest another $50 million in the medical school per biennium for the next decade."

The sum of these budget requests -- $662 million -- equal more than half of the state's projected budget surplus of $1 billion. The Minnesota Management and Budget Office will release another budget and economic forecast in late February or early March that state lawmakers will work with to craft their own budget proposal.

Separately, Dayton on Monday unveiled his transportation budget proposal. The two-term governor has proposed new forms of revenue to pay for a projected $6-billion deficit in transportation funding.  

Medical device company executive to challenge GOP Rep. John Kline

Posted by: Allison Sherry under Morning Hot Dish newsletter, 2nd District, Minnesota congressional Updated: January 26, 2015 - 3:30 PM
Angie Craig

Angie Craig

WASHINGTON -- Angie Craig, a vice president at a medical device company, announced Monday she was planning to run against GOP Rep. John Kline in the Second Congressional District next year.

Craig told the Star Tribune that next month she planned to step down from the executive leadership team at St. Jude Medical to prepare to seek the DFL nomination in 2016. She plans on staying with the company, where she has worked in various management positions for a decade, in a strategic capacity.

She has never run for political office before.

Craig, 42, said she felt compelled to challenge Kline, who is serving his seventh term and chairs the House Education Committee, because she is increasingly disappointed in his voting record.

Craig called him "out of touch" with residents of the Second District. She cited two recent votes: one to defund President Barack Obama's executive immigration order and another GOP measure requiring the work week to be defined as 40 hours, rather than 30 hours.

"I don't think that represents who we are," she said. "I believe we need new perspectives and leaders willing to work toward progress more than ever."

Minnesota's Second Congressional District is slightly Republican leaning and is dubbed an R+2 by political observers, meaning a generic Republican would beat out a generic Democrat by two points in a hypothetical election. Kline beat Democrat Mike Obermueller by 17 points last year.

Craig said she hopes to build a platform that "further strengthens the economy and make sure we have economic security for the middle class."

Craig is married to Cheryl Greene and together they have four sons, two 17 year-olds, a 16 year-old and an 11 year-old. They live in Eagan. She said she was raised by her mother and grandmother in a trailer park in Arkansas. She has lived in Minnesota for 10 years.

"I'm incredibly fortunate and humbled," she said. "I believe my business background and my life experiences make me uniquely qualified to advocate for policies for every family in America."

Republican David Gerson, who has twice before challenged and lost to Kline in the primaries, said Monday he hoped to challenge him again next year. 

A Kline spokesman declined comment on Craig or Gerson.

State tax code updated to mirror federal law

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez under Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Democrats, Republicans, State budgets Updated: January 26, 2015 - 11:17 AM

Less than a week after tax filing season began for most Minneosatons, Gov. Mark Dayton signed legislation updating the state's tax code to bring in line with recent federal tax changes that will provide $20 million in tax breaks for school teachers, homeowners paying mortgage insurance and college students. 

HF 6 over the weekend became the session's first law. It sailed through the House and Senate as lawmakers raced to get the bill approved for Dayton's signature. 

Because tax filing season for most Minnesotans opened Jan. 20, the Legislature acted quickly to avoid forcing taxpayers who have already filed to submit amended state returns. 

"We needed quick legislative action to ensure a smooth tax filing season for the thousands of taxpayers who began filing their taxes this week,” said Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly in a statement. "We applaud lawmakers and the Governor for their timely, bipartisan effort to pass this bill and make filing easier for Minnesota taxpayers.

Known as tax-conformity bills, this legislation comes up frequently at the Capitol. Every time Congress updates the tax code, states must decide whether to conform or leave taxpayers to navigate the difference between their state and federal filings.

Among the changes in the offing for Minnesota’s tax code:

• Teachers could deduct up to $250 in out-of-pocket classroom expenses. This change would affect as many as 60,000 filers.

• Extending the itemized deduction for mortgage insurance premiums that would affect 60,000 returns.

• A deduction for higher education, between $2,000 and $4,000 — depending on income — that would allow Minnesotans to write off college-related expenses. The income threshold for single filers would be $80,000 and $160,000 for joint filers. An estimated 9,000 filers are expected to qualify.

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