Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders are still in negotiations over the agenda for a one-day special session planned for September 9. Initially meant only for passage of a damage relief bill for 18 counties hit by late June rain and wind storms, the session has since become the subject of a political struggle over the repeal of new taxes passed just months ago.
Tuesday afternoon, Dayton issued a draft agreement for the session, asking legislative leadership to sign off on a limited agenda. Under Dayton’s proposal, the session would seek to pass one bill for several million dollars in storm relief, and another to repeal the new agriculture repair services tax. Under Dayton’s proposed terms, neither bill would be subject to amendments.
Dayton’s decision to pursue the repeal of the agriculture tax, which he announced last week at Farmfest, has been welcomed by all sides, and DFL caucus leaders quickly agreed to Dayton’s original terms. But Republican leadership has used Dayton’s openness to additional topics to push for a repeal of the business-to-business warehouse tax, which has received strong criticism from business groups such as the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. In a jointly issued response letter, Senate Majority Leader David Hann and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt held the same line as they had last week, saying the warehouse tax should be repealed immediately.
“Republicans believe providing funding for disaster relief is priority number one and then we should undo two of Governor Dayton’s damaging tax increases — sales tax on warehousing and on equipment repairs — to prevent hardworking taxpayers from paying more,” Hann said.
Already, Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, and gubernatorial candidate Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, have announced plans to enter legislation that would repeal the warehouse tax during the one-day session. On the Senate side, another potential Dayton opponent in 2014, Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, has said he would carry a corresponding bill. For his part, Dayton has said he does not like the warehouse tax, but argued that any repeal legislation could wait until next year’s regularly scheduled session; the tax does not go into effect until April 1, 2014.
The agriculture services tax accounts for $29 million worth of projected revenue over the 2014-15 budget biennium, which began in July, while the warehouse tax is expected to generate about $90 million.
According to the GOP statement, Dayton has agreed to a request from Daudt to meet with all four legislative leaders to set a finalized agreement on the agenda.