Will April debates bring May deals? This week at Minnesota Capitol could tell

Published 1:56 pm Monday, May 1, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Brian Bakst, Minnesota Public Radio News

With just about three weeks left in the legislative session – and leaders considering an early finish – lawmakers are entering crunch time to resolve differences between massive budget bills and move them to the governor’s desk.

Small groups of lawmakers will meet this week to look over different versions of education, public safety, health and human services and transportation budget bills to try to compromise on pieces that can advance through final votes and gain the governor’s signature.

Email newsletter signup

During these small group discussions, which may happen behind the scenes before they’re opened to the public, legislators will decide the shape of tax credits or rebates this year as well as some tax and fee hikes. They’ll also determine precisely how the state should spend a roughly $72 billion budget.

And there are some bills that still need initial floor votes before they make it to conference committees.

Senate to weigh tax bill Tuesday

After unveiling their tax plan last week, DFLers in the Minnesota Senate are set to bring to the floor for a vote a package of roughly $4 billion in tax credits and cuts.

The proposal contains some tax cuts, as well as a new tax hike for some corporations. Tax filers who made $75,000 or less in 2021 could stand to get a $279 tax credit, while couples that make $150,000 or less could see a $558 rebate, with additional credits available for families with children.

That one-time payment would be augmented by some child and dependent tax credits that are boosted in the bill.

More Social Security benefits would be spared from state taxes, basically for any recipients earning less than $100,000 per year for joint filers and $78,000 for solo filers. And the bill has more money for property tax relief programs and local aid.

Republicans and many Democrats on the campaign trail last year vowed to fully eliminate the tax. And the increased threshold – rather than full elimination – is likely to generate several amendments, as well as blowback, during the debate.

The plan would also pull in more money through a new corporate tax. In essence, corporations that earn money or have subsidiaries in other countries would have to report more revenue for Minnesota tax purposes – a somewhat untested system that could invite legal challenges.

Sen. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said Minnesotans wouldn’t like the idea of raising taxes for some to cut them for others.

“It’s not going to be interpreted or viewed by Minnesotans as an honest tax cut,” he said. “When we’re increasing taxes in one area to decrease them in another, it’s like whac-a-mole. It’s like pulling money out of one pocket and putting it in the other. We’ve seen this in the past in this Legislature and that doesn’t go very well.”

DFL Senate Tax Committee Chair Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said it was a good way to help parents, low-income Minnesotans and others.

“Each person here will characterize it differently. But we often say we’re going to do a benefit for one group of people and another group of people pays for it,” Rest said.

Marijuana bill and paid family leave

Two major agenda items for majority party Democrats in both chambers are also on the move.

The Senate on Friday approved a marijuana legalization plan, just days after the House did. The differing versions will require additional talks. A conference committee will face some urgency to get it done given that lawmakers are poised to leave town after approving the budget.

And a paid family and medical leave bill, which would establish a fund for partial wage replacement during time off around a major family change or illness, is set for its first showdown votes. The House is due to debate the measure Tuesday.

The plan would rely on a new payroll tax assessed on employers and employees and guarantee weeks off regardless of where somebody works, except for some seasonal employees.

Major business groups are fighting the mandate as too costly and an intrusion on the employer-employee relationship, given that benefits would be administered through the state.

Supporters contend that many workers can’t access adequate time off or lack protections when they do.

Lawmakers to choose new University of Minnesota regents

Monday evening, Minnesota lawmakers will convene a joint session to select new members of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

Each lawmaker gets a vote on each of the four regent slots up for consideration. That’s one third of the 12-member governing board.

Since DFLers hold 104 of the 201 legislative seats, they’ll have sway over the selections. There are sometimes demographic or geographic considerations that come into play.

But this is a critical moment for the university. Regents are in the process of choosing a new president, they’re dealing with a hospital merger that will affect the school’s medical program and they’ve been trying to mend fences at the Capitol.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the timing of the Senate tax debate