Republican tax bill makes promises it can’t keep

Republican tax bill makes promises it can’t keep

The Minnesota Senate passed a $327 million tax package on Thursday, just days before the state will learn just how deeply the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to affect the state’s budget. State economic experts are due to release updated budget projections on May 5 to help guide spending decisions during the final weeks of the legislative session. Since the last budget forecast, economic conditions have dramatically weakened and state spending has increased, so the updated information is critical.

Senate DFLers did not object to the content of the bill as much as the spending it contained. For instance, the bill modified referendum equalization levies for some of the state’s school districts, helping schools as well as property taxpayers. However, it cost $31 million and only helped some districts, not all. At a time when we know all school districts are struggling, it would have been prudent to spend time considering relief that would have a broader statewide effect.

The bill also reduced tax rates for charitable organizations that raise money from gambling operations. The idea of helping charities weather the current economic realities has merit, but at a $33 million cost, Senate Republicans should have allowed time to weigh that cost against broader tax measures that could also help other businesses.

Everyone understands the vast pressures facing Minnesotans right now, and Senate DFLers are prepared to approve responsible, effective relief where we can. But rushing to approve hundreds of millions of dollars in spending before fully understanding the state’s finances just delivers promises that Republicans very likely will not be able to keep. (SF 3843)