Gov. Mark Dayton expressed disappointment Wednesday in House Democrats’ bonding proposal, criticizing it as underfunded and saying that an agreement last year between DFLers and Republicans to bond no more than $850 million should be rescinded.
“There’s certainly capacity to go higher than that,” Dayton said. “It’s an impossible task to try to meet all those needs, and the urgent needs should be funded.”
Dayton’s remarks came the day after the House released its proposal to fund nearly $1 billion in state projects. Their bonding bill would be funded by two sources: $850 million from the sale of state construction bonds and another $125 million from the state’s budget surplus. Dayton said he disagreed with the cash-for-bonding measure.
“I’ve said to both leaders in the House and Senate that we don’t use cash for bonding bills because that’s the whole purpose of bonding, you put cash down and expand the scope of projects dramatically,” Dayton said. “Putting cash into a bonding bill to me is antithetical to the whole purpose of that enterprise.”
Dayton expressed concern that the bill only includes $20 million for Capitol renovations, saying the Department of Administration needs $125 million in hand soon to fulfill necessary construction contracts. There, he would support using cash to meet that deadline in order to keep construction costs down.
Dayton made his remarks following a news conference with Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans, in which they urged the estimated 1 million Minnesotans who have yet to file their taxes to do so starting today to receive tax cut benefits.
Dayton also said he would deliver his State of the State address April 23 in the House chambers, when the Legislature returns from recess. He said he hoped the date would provide a strong incentive for the Legislature to adjourn before then, “but it didn’t seem to have that effect.”
A bipartisan cohort of lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton are putting new force behind a move to cut out the need for so many special sessions.
To avoid the need for all 201 legislators to tromp back to the state Capitol to fund disaster relief when floods or other tragedy strikes, the group wants to create a contingency fund that the state could tap to help local communities in trouble. Without that fund in place, governors need to call special sessions to match federal disaster funds.
“When severe weather damages homes and businesses, or a major flood tears through a community, Minnesotans need help as quickly as possible,” Dayton said in a statement. “I urge the Legislature to act during the Unsession to ensure our responses to future disasters are fast, appropriate, and efficient.”
At least five times in the last dozen years, governors have called special sessions to allow the Legislature to approve disaster funds. Those sessions tend to last only one day at a cost between $30,000 and $40,000.
See a Star Tribune interactive graphic of special sessions, as recorded by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, sorted by length below. Click on each year to see the primary purpose for each session.
Minnesota GOP gubernatorial candidates came to St. Paul on Thursday to bash what has been a popular target for Republicans – the new $90 million Senate office building and parking lot.
One by one, they came to the podium to bash the project, which DFLers folded into the tax measure that passed at end of session last year.
Marty Seifert of Marshall called the building “opulent and unnecessary.” Rep. Kurt Zellers, of Maple Grove, said the building is poorly conceived as potholes go unfilled and many Minnesotans are out of work. Orono businessman Scott Honour said if he is elected, he will sublet the building to commercial tenants and use the revenue to pay for it.
The building has drawn a lot of furor around the Capitol and in the community.
Supporters want to get the building approved quickly so it can be built and utilized while the Capitol is undergoing a massive, multimillion-dollar renovation. The proposed building will house many state Senators and potentially free up space in the Capitol and a neighboring building.
The only thing standing in the way of the new building is a powerful House committee – which is looking for cheaper alternatives.
Dayton has been a vocal critic of the building’s price tag, saying it was too extravagant and out of synch with Minnesotans’ values. He favors some type of Senate building, but one that fits in better with the more utilitarian government office buildings around the Capitol.
This is the first time all five GOP gubernatorial candidates appeared together at a news conference. Republicans say they believe the public outrage over the new building will help them win in November.
Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said the building arrangement is just fine. He said legislators are only in St. Paul for a few months out of the year and don’t need an entire new building for their offices.
“Priorities, folks,” he said. “We don't need this.”
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson said is not convinced Senators need a new building.
“I have yet to see the case that the new building is needed,” he said.
House DFLers released a small tax cut proposal Wednesday, providing breaks for farmers, homeowners and small businesses owners.
“We were pleased that we moved forward so quickly this session to cut taxes for more than one million Minnesotans, but we have more work to do this session to continue making progress,” said House Taxes Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington. “We believe this is a responsible way to continue expanding our economy from the middle-out while maintaining our stable budget into the future.”
The measure includes $45 million in targeted property tax relief to Minnesota homeowners, renters, and farmers.
An average family farmer in Minnesota will see $460 in property tax relief, under the proposal. Homeowners will get some relief through a one-time increase in the homestead credit. Renters will see a one-time increase in a credit that will aid about 350,000 Minnesota renters.
Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL- Minneapolis, who chairs the House Property Tax Division, said farmers are still experiencing property tax increases due to significant increases in market value. This comes despite significant money being devoted by the state to buy down property taxes.
“This bill will build on our progress and help put more in the pockets of homeowners, renters and farmers,” Davnie said.
House Democrats want to give a property tax cut for small businesses with property value less than $1.1 million.
The measure also provides tax relief to our active military members by extending our active military income tax subtraction to National Guard service members in the Active Guard Reserve.
This is the second major tax proposal of the session. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the first one last week, which provided about $440 million in tax relief for more than 1 million Minnesotans.
Legislators are still dealing with about half of the $1.2 billion projected budget surplus. Along with the tax cuts, legislators set aside $150 million to bolster the state’s budget reserves.
Minnesota's Department of Revenue has some advice for taxpayers: Please wait.
Given a new tax relief law in place, after quick legislative action last week, the agency is asking taxpayers who could benefit to wait until April 3 to file their taxes. By then, the agency, software vendors and tax preparers should have updated forms in place to process the tax breaks.
The department also wants taxpayers who have already filed their returns -- and about half of Minnesotans have -- to wait for the department to contact them about getting refunds if they will benefit from the new law. It may take months, but the agency expects that it will simply send out checks to the taxpayers who overpaid or contact them for further information.
"This is a pretty complex task," said Minnesota Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans. "This is not something you normally want to do this late in the filing season."
Last week, after some hullabaloo, the Legislature and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton approved a $444 million tax relief package. The tax relief, coming after a year when Democrats raised taxes by nearly $2 billion, gives Dayton and lawmakers a popular talking point now that they're up for re-election.
Only about a quarter -- $57 million in tax cuts -- will apply to 2013 taxes, meaning those who filed already will get refunds and those who have yet to file will pay less in taxes. Individual taxpayers will end up paying about $49 million less in taxes this year and businesses will pay an estimated $8 million less.
The tax cuts will apply to about ten percent of all taxpayers this year, or about 250,000 to 270,000 Minnesotans.
The people who will benefit fall into 22 different categories. A dozen of those are businesses. Others include low income families, college students, parents who adopted children last year and educators who paid for classroom supplies.
See the full list of individual taxpayer categories below. See the department's general guidance for individual taxpayers here.
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