Urgent Issues not Accomplished in 2016

Taxes

The last tax bill that was signed into law in Minnesota was in May of 2014. In 2015, the legislature could not find compromise between the House Republicans’ $2 billion bill and Senate Democrats’ more responsible $460 million investment, so the bill (HF 848) remained in conference committee. In 2016, the Senate passed a new, smaller tax bill that later merged with HF 848, and the reorganized conference committee passed a tax bill on May 22. Governor Dayton vetoed that bill via pocket veto after session adjourned because of a minor wording mistake related to bingo halls, which inadvertently would have caused up to a $101 million deficit in the stadium reserve fund.

As a result, there are a substantial number of must-do tax policies, such as federal tax conformity, that will need to be addressed in 2017. Republican leaders have said they would like to pass a similar version of the 2016 bill early in the year, but a new political landscape coupled with the outdated cost estimates in the previous bill means most items will need to be completely renegotiated.

  • In the past, the DFL-led Senate protected the state’s budget by ensuring tax relief was regionally balanced and targeted at working Minnesotans, small businesses, and property tax relief.
  • In contrast, the House Republicans’ initial tax bills focused on high-cost giveaways that benefitted corporations and wealthier Minnesotans more than small businesses and the middle class. In addition, they reduced state aid to large metropolitan cities and provided no increase in the property tax relief program for rural Minnesota cities and counties.
  • With a new group of Republicans in charge and eager to fulfill many tax-related promises, the DFL will once again need to stand up for financially sound, smartly-targeted tax investments that lift up our state and do not drain the bank account.

Bonding

Republican Speaker Daudt had made it clear that he did not believe a bonding bill would transpire if an agreement was not reached for a special session in late December. He argued that the upcoming session is a budget year and as a result there likely will not be time for bonding.

  • Democrats remain committed to passing a bonding bill that will preserve our current facilities while meeting the demands of future generations.
  • Bonding bills are one of the most direct economic development tools we use to create jobs. Infrastructure projects funded through these bills employ thousands of Minnesotans across the state and in some instances, leverage federal matching grants or other private investment in communities.
  • The completion of a bonding bill is critical to communities across the state for basic needs such as water, sewers, roads, and bridges. The longer we wait to address our infrastructure needs, the more expensive it is to repair or replace the state’s resources.

Health Insurance Premium Relief

After the 2017 individual market health insurance rates were announced in October, the DFL Senate, Governor Dayton and, eventually, House Republicans supported an upfront, state-paid rebate on health insurance premiums to help Minnesotans absorb the massive cost increases. Despite their calls to immediately address the problem, House Republicans refused to agree to terms of a special session so this priority remains unaccomplished.

Speaker Daudt said in a public media briefing on Dec. 19 that he would like to pass some type of premium relief in the first weeks of session. Other Republicans have said they will not vote for anything that isn’t attached to broader solutions for the individual marketplace. Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has said Republicans may prefer to wait and see Congress’ plans for the Affordable Care Act before making sweeping changes at the state level.

  • Senate Democrats were the first lawmakers to present specific strategies to provide immediate financial relief to Minnesotans facing high premiums. We believe it’s critical to offer immediate financial relief to families facing exorbitant premiums in 2017, and we look forward to working together to find broader solutions for the individual market as session progresses.
  • It’s unfortunate that House Republicans forced consumers to purchase health insurance without knowing whether they would be receiving the much-promised payment relief, but we welcome their cooperation now and hope to pass this temporary assistance as soon as possible.
Senate DFL Media