1.) Following the harsh public criticisms of Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday, reports MPR, the Minnesota Senate presented its tax bill Wednesday. Senate Taxes Committee Chair Rod Skoe’s bill comes in at $434 million, or about $70 million less than the $503 million in tax cuts passed by the House earlier. One source of the discrepancy is that the House went fully retroactive on its business-to-business sales tax cuts, while the Senate did not opt to go retroactive on the two taxes that took effect last year.
Other differences, according to MPR’s Tim Pugmire: “The Senate bill includes a repeal of the gift tax, an estate tax adjustment and an angel investment tax credit. However, it does not include a child care credit, one of Dayton’s priorities. The biggest difference between the House and Senate bills is that the Senate’s measure uses $150 million of the surplus to increase the state’s budget reserve account.” During a press availability Wednesday, House leaders refused to speculate on whether the House would accept the Senate bill or take it to conference committee.
2.) There is still hope for a comprehensive transportation funding package this session, at least according to the behavior of the House Transportation Finance Committee, which is expected to mark-up and vote on just such a bill during its 10:00 a.m. hearing this morning. Chair Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, has remained upbeat about the prospects of passing that legislation, which combines a metro area sales tax with a tax on gasoline sales at the wholesale level. Hornstein’s optimism comes despite the fact that both the House and Senate have carved-out cash spending for transportation needs in their budget plans instead of dedicated tax revenues. House Democrats would spend $50 million on roads and bridges projects, while the Senate DFL’s proposal includes an even larger infusion of $200 million toward transportation needs.
3.) Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, conceded Wednesday that he lacks the votes to pass full Sunday liquor sales through that chamber’s Commerce Committee, the Star Tribune reports. Reinert told the paper: “I do want full repeal. But I’m also practical and realistic, and this is what we could do.” The 2014 session, which has seen the most credible assault so far on the age-old Sunday sales ban, remains likely to yield some modification of Sunday sales laws – including, notably, allowing breweries to sell 64-ounce growlers and open their taprooms on Sunday even without food sales.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Rep. Mike Beard, R-Shakopee, will not seek re-election this year, according to a statement released this week. Beard is retiring after six terms of service in the House, and currently serves as the GOP lead on the House Transportation Finance Committee; he said he plans to continue work in public service after leaving the Legislature.
- Democrat Marla Vagts has registered to run a legislative campaign in House District 58B, currently represented by Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington. Vagts, a supervisor at North American Communications Resources, Inc., cinched the DFL endorsement in that district earlier this month.
- Lukas Czech, a sales specialist at Best Buy, has registered his GOP legislative campaign in House District 53A, where Rep. JoAnn Ward, DFL-Baxter, is serving her first term in office. Ward won election in 2012 with about 56 percent of the vote.
- Minnesota Management and Budget has promoted Cindy Farrell to take over as assistant commissioner for accounting services, where she will replace Lori Mo, who is retiring. Farrell has an extensive background in financial work with the state government, having served as chief financial officer for both the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Department of Labor and Industry.
- Donald Swartz, former president of Fox affiliate KMSP-TV, has died at age 98, the Star Tribune reports. Swartz helmed the station from 1957 until his retirement in 1983, and is credited with making it one of the most successful independent stations in America.