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The Capitol Note: Tax talk to dominate session’s first day

Mike Mullen//February 25, 2014

The Capitol Note: Tax talk to dominate session’s first day

Mike Mullen//February 25, 2014

Rep. Ann Lenczewski will chair a hearing on tax repeal bills. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)
Rep. Ann Lenczewski will chair a hearing on tax repeal bills. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

1.) Day one of the 2014 legislative session, as ever, will be devoted in part to symbolic, news-cycle-friendly gestures, the most striking of which is a marathon hearing of the House Taxes Committee devoted to an airing of more than 25 pieces of legislation on the subject of cutting Minnesota taxes. The bipartisan laundry list of pending bills is devoted principally to repealing some or all of the three controversial business-to-business sales taxes passed in 2013 (levies on warehousing services, business and farm equipment repair, and the purchase of telecommunications gear) and to adopting federal tax conformity. Regarding the latter, House Taxes Chair Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said in a release yesterday, “Federal tax conformity may sound boring, but it means real tax cuts for many Minnesotans. Last year we did not have bipartisan support on our federal tax conformity proposal, but I hope this year we can work together to pass middle class tax cuts.”

DFLers in the House, along with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, have made it clear that they would like to wipe out all three of the new business sales taxes in addition to implementing federal conformity. To do so would cost the state something over $500 million per biennium going forward. But Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, has said he has serious reservations about repealing all the new B2B sales taxes, setting up what could be a fraught negotiation between the two chambers over the ultimate shape of a tax bill.

2.) On the floor, the first day of session will see the DFL majority in the Minnesota House suspend the rules to take up a bill that would devote an additional $20 million to emergency home heating assistance in Minnesota. The money would be administered according to the rules of federal emergency heating assistance. Local weather reports have indicated this week that the current run of near- and below-zero days stand to make 2013-14 one of the three coldest winters in Minnesota in the past 100 years.

The heating assistance bill has been given to freshman DFL Rep. Joe Radinovich of Crosby to carry — a token of the extent to which House leadership values Radinovich and hopes to buttress his reelection bid. Most observers give Radinovich, who won by a narrow margin in the Republican-tilting District 10B in 2012, a narrow chance of holding on to his seat after his vote to legalize same-sex marriage last year.

3.) The Star Tribune‘s newest Minnesota Poll findings reveal an unsurprising partisan divide over health care reform, with 50 percent of respondents predicting their insurance coverage will be the same or better under the new system, compared to 46 percent who said their coverage would be worse. Those numbers break down along party lines, as only 11 percent of Democrats feel their coverage will be worse, while 87 percent of Republicans feel that way. A slightly majority of self-identified Independents (54 percent) think their care options will decline, and 38 percent of unaffiliated voters predict as much. The survey also produced a dead-even split on what to do with the troubled MNsure health insurance exchange: 40 percent of respondents said Minnesota should keep the system as is, 40 percent said the state should “scrap” it and 20 percent were unsure about what to do.


  • Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, announced that he will not seek re-election to the House of Representatives this year, choosing instead to focus on his gubernatorial candidacy. Zellers, now in his sixth term, served as House Speaker during the 2011-12 session. Dean Henke is the lone Republican candidate currently registered to run in Zellers’ House District 34B.
  • Sens. Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) and Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) were announced as new assistant minority leaders by the Senate Republican caucus on Monday, the Star Tribune reports. The GOP senators will assume the leadership positions previously held by Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, and his gubernatorial running mate, Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake.
  • Lobbyist Sarah Erickson added a pair of clients to her roster, picking up the Minnesota Regional Railroads Association and the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Action Fund, bringing the pro-gun control group’s Minnesota team to four lobbyists on record.
  • The Raise the Wage Coalition is holding a Capitol rotunda rally at 4:00 p.m. today. House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk are both scheduled to be on hand for the event organized by the coalition of more than 60 community, faith and labor groups.
  • Lobbyist and former Senate Tax Committee administrator Cap O’Rourke has registered to advocate for the Independent Vapor Retailers of Minnesota, becoming the e-cigarette advocacy group’s first official representative.
  • The Minnesota Farm Bureau is hiring for an administrative associate position. The Eagan-based advocacy organization is looking for an employee to coordinate events, maintain records and handle distribution of marketing materials. Contact Doug Busselman at [email protected] for more information.


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