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.
COMINGS & GOINGS