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, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

Posts about State budgets

Qualify for the new tax breaks? Hold return until Thursday, state says

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: April 1, 2014 - 1:19 PM

The Minnesota Department of Revenue has finished retooling state forms for software companies so consumers can take advantage of rebates for new tax law changes.

Revenue officials will begin transitioning their system at the end of Tuesday, allowing Minnesotans who haven’t filed access to the most up-to-date tax data. They are instructing consumers have not filed their Minnesota tax returns and who could benefit from the law changes to wait until at least Thursday to submit their state tax filings.

Gov. Mark Dayton just signed into law about $440 million, including about $57 million that is retroactive for the 2013 tax year.

Minnesotans who lost their home to foreclosure, adopted a child or had student loan debt could see a much larger refund, or have to pay in less in taxes, as part of the new tax laws.

Last week, revenue department officials instructed tax preparers not to submit new returns until the system is updated.

So far, more than 56 percent of Minnesotans have filed their taxes.

Revenue officials will review the taxes of those who already filed to determine who is owed a refund.

House bonding chief offers $975M in projects, calls it 'inadequate'

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: April 1, 2014 - 10:58 AM

(Updated)

The Democratic chairwoman of the House's bonding committee is offering $975 million in building and infrastructure projects that she labeled as "inadequate" to the state's needs, but also predicted it would be difficult to get enough votes from Republicans to make the list law. 

Rep. Alice Hausman of St. Paul unveiled her proposal Tuesday. Passing a bonding bill is one of the chief priorities of lawmakers this year, but it's also one of the toughest bills to pass because it requires a legislative supermajority in order to issue the bonds that pay for most of the projects. That puts Republicans in the legislative minority in a pivotal position: at least eight of them must vote for the bonding bill if it's to pass the House. 

"That's going to be an uphill battle," Hausman said. "It has a long way to go and not much time."

Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed $986 million in bonding projects, with many of the same priorities as House Democrats. Senate Democrats have not yet unveiled their project list or preferred price tag. 

Hausman's bill contains $850 million in bonding and an additional $125 million in cash from the state's budget surplus to pay for dozens of construction projects around the state. The largest chunks are reserved for the University of Minnesota system, which gets $175 million, and $139 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. 

Two projects on the Minneapolis campus account for more than $100 million of the University of Minnesota money: a renovation and planetarium project at the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural HIstory, and a renovation of Tate Laboratory of Physics. 

Other beneficiaries of large chunks of money include the Department of Natural Resources, which gets $62 million for a handful of park and trail projects, flood mitigation and land acquisition; $50 million for the Department of Transportation to replace bridges and improve roads; $41 million to remodel the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter; and $147 million in grants to local governments for economic development projects. 

That last piece includes $4.5 million to the city of Minneapolis for the planned redesign of Nicollet Mall. Rochester would get $30 million for an expansion of Mayo Civic Center, Mankato would get $14.5 million to expand its arena, and St. Cloud would get $11.5 million to expand River's Edge Convention Center. St. Paul would get $14 million to expand and renovate the Children's Museum. 

In the cash portion of the bill, Hausman included $20 million for the ongoing Capitol restoration project. That's short of what project planners say is needed to keep the project going in a timely fashion. 

Rep. Matt Dean, the ranking Republican on Hausman's committee, said he believed many of his GOP colleagues do want to vote for a bonding bill. But he withheld judgement on Hausman's mix of projects.

The list of $850 million in House bonding projects can be found here. The list of $125 million in cash projects can be found here

Democrats pressing for more spending, tax reductions

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: March 28, 2014 - 3:30 PM

Minnesota Senate leaders will be finalizing their supplemental budget proposal next week, outlining how they want to spend the remaining money from the $1.2 billion projected budget surplus.

“This is lining up to be a historically short session,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.

Legislators already approved about $440 million in tax relief and another $150 million to increase budget reserves, leaving about $600 million for new spending.

Advocates are hoping the plan includes a widely supported raise for roughly 112,000 Minnesota care attendants for the elderly and disabled, matching a raise legislators authorized last year for state-paid nursing home workers.

House Democrats would like to spend roughly $100 million on additional tax relief, mostly to property owners, renters and military veterans.

“I don’t know how people would explain that more property tax relief isn’t a good idea,” said House Taxes Committee Chairwomen Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington. “It’s totally doable.”

Republicans have some questions about some provisions in the tax bill relating to bed and breakfasts, but are generally supportive of more tax relief.

“There’s some really good stuff in the tax bill, but there are a couple poison pills that we need to get out of there,” said state Rep. Greg Davids, a Preston Republican who is the GOP lead on the House taxes committee.

GOP gubernatorial candidates rip planned new Senate building

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: March 27, 2014 - 3:06 PM
GOP chairman Kieth Downey introduces GOP candidates

GOP chairman Keith Downey introduces GOP candidates

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.

With first tax cut measure out of the way, Democrats push for another

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: March 26, 2014 - 4:49 PM

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.

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