On Thursday, Minnesota’s economic and budget gurus will release their latest forecast for the state. Join in the fun by tweeting your forecast guess with the hashtag #mnforecast.
Minnesota's economic and budget gurus, the people who create a spreadsheet out of their internal guess the number of candies in the jar charity fundraiser, are permitted to submit guesses. In fact, insiders of all stripes are welcome.
For the non-insiders, check out the most recent economic updates for some background:
October update “Net non-dedicated general fund revenues totaled $4.086 billion during the first quarter of fiscal year 2014, $2 million less than projected in February.”
July update “Minnesota’s net general fund receipts for FY 2013 are now estimated to total $17.927 billion, $463 million (2.7 percent) more than February’s forecast.”
April update “Minnesota’s net general fund revenues totaled $2.570 billion during February and March, $145 million (6.0 percent) more than forecast in February.”
And here's our running tally of guesses so far. Make yours on Twitter to be added to the list -- and win bragging rights and public recognition:
The contest will end when the Star Tribune gets the official number, which should be by or before 9:15 am Thursday.
Gov. Mark Dayton and other Democratic state officeholders picked up a new union endorsement.
The Minnesota Association of Professional Employees endorsed Dayton, along with Lori Swanson for Attorney General and Rebecca Otto for State Auditor.
“Mark Dayton has shown tremendous political courage to get our state’s economy growing again,” said Carrie Wasley, chairman of MAPE’s political action committee. “Throughout his first term, governor Dayton made tough decisions that benefit all Minnesotans, preserve our middle class, and get our economy moving in the right direction.”
Wasley said Swanson “has a proven track record of fairness and leadership on consumer issues facing Minnesotans.”
Of Otto, Wasley added: “Whether it’s providing oversight of state employee pension investments, identifying ways to make government more efficient or finding innovative budget saving solutions, Auditor Otto does not shy away from making the right choice for taxpayers – she has earned another four year term.”
The Minnesota Association of Professional Employees is a 13,000-member union of state employees.
Adoption got more expensive for some Minnesota families this year.
Workers who received money from their employers to help offset adoption expenses will now face a state tax bill for that help. Adoptive parents used to be able to write off up to $12,970 in employer assistance. Congress made those tax breaks permanent. Minnesota did not.
It was one of dozens of federal tax breaks that no longer exist in Minnesota, after the Legislature opted against bringing the state tax code into full compliance with Washington. The result are a series of small gaps between state and federal tax returns that could hit everyone from homeowners going through foreclosures to workers who got college tuition assistance from their employers.
Signing off on every single one of Congress's recent tax breaks and extensions would have cost Minnesota $300 million over the next two years. But Gov. Mark Dayton and many lawmakers say there may be enough money in the budget to restore some of the tax breaks.
Restoring the adoption tax break would cost the state an estimated $400,000 in 2014. Allowing workers tax-free employer tuition assistance would cost $4.4 million. Exempting homeowners who go through foreclosures or mortgage debt forgiveness from additional taxes would cost $7.2 million.
Saturday is National Adoption Day and state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, is pledging to introduce legislation next session to eliminate the state adoption tax. There are plenty of items in the state budget that could be trimmed to pay for the tax breaks, Garofalo said: "a very easy way would be to get rid of the $90 million Senate office building."
"Everybody's pro-adoption. Why would you make it more expensive?" Garofalo said. "If we can find hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new Vikings stadium, we can find hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix the adoption tax credit problem."
Gov. Mark Dayton has also said he's "very willing" to look at closing some of the gaps in the tax code, particularly for homeowners who could be hit with a sizable tax bill after going through a foreclosure or short sale.
The Minnesota Legislature returns to work in late February 2014, after many taxpayers begin filing their taxes.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue has released the adjusted individual income tax rates for 2014.
The tweaks are designed to ensure that rising interests rates don't bump taxpayers into higher tax brackets while their incomes remain stagnant. Those adjustments do not change the tax rates that apply to each income bracket.
In the coming year, the marginal state income tax rates will range from 5.35 percent for the lowest income bracket -- individuals earning less than $36,080 a year -- up to 9.85 percent for the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans -- individuals who earn more than $152,541 or couples filing jointly who earn more than $254,241. The Legislature created the new fourth income tax tier in the last session, as part of the $2.1 billion tax bill.
While President Obama was tweaking the Affordable Care Act Thursday to extend expiring insurance policies for another year, U.S. Rep. John Kline was holding a hearing in his Education and Workforce Committee to explore another potential pitfall of the law.
In a new challenge to the health care overhaul, the Minnesota Republican has been highlighting the financial burden that it could impose on school districts and colleges that have to comply with the federal mandate to provide coverage for their employees.
Though the mandate has been pushed back a year, educators and school district officials from around the nation warned of the unintended budget consequences of covering part-time and semi-part workers such as teaching aides, adjunct instructors, cooks, bus drivers and others who work more than 30 hours a week.
A recent analysis of Minnesota Education Department data by the conservative-leaning Watchdog Minnesota found that 22,800 non-licensed school employees work between 30 and 39 hours a week, making them eligible for required benefits under the new health law.
State education officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Critics of the law warn that the 30-hour threshold will force schools, just like other employers, to limit hours, cut jobs, or incur greater costs.
While some educators have asked that the coverage threshold be raised to 40 hours, Democrats on the committee argued that the change would hurt part-time workers who will otherwise be insured.
Kline argues that the law’s employer mandate could hurt the educational system at all levels. “Americans continue to express their concerns about Obamacare and the troubling impact it is having on their lives,” Kline said in the lead-up to the hearing. “Our nation’s schools are not immune to the consequences of this law.”