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The Capitol Note: GOP delays Senate tax vote for review of details

1.) A bid to expedite the passage of a tax-cuts bill through the Minnesota Senate ran aground Thursday when the chamber’s Republican minority refused to offer up any votes to suspend Senate rules, writes the Pioneer Press.  “I was handed this bill about an hour ago, and literally the paper was still hot,” Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said on the floor. “As a senator, I have the right to have an opportunity to read and understand a bill [before voting].” Thursday’s impasse will put the bill on the floor today. Gov. Mark Dayton criticized the Senate GOP for the push-back, while Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk called the tactic “shenanigans,” but conceded that the Republicans were acting within their rights.

In addition to repealing business-to-business sales taxes enacted last year and adopting federal income tax conformity measures, the Senate bill would repeal the state gift tax enacted last year and raise the threshold on estate tax exemptions. Its tax provisions net out to a cost of about $432 million for the current biennium and $1 billion in 2016-17. The bill would also commit an additional $150 million of the state’s current surplus to a budget reserve account.

2.) A House package to add $750 million per year to the state transportation budget took one step forward and two steps back on Thursday, as its passage through committee was almost immediately rendered moot by a statement from House Speaker Paul Thissen. The bill brought by Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, would combine a wholesale gas tax and an increase on dedicated sales taxes in the seven-county metro area to fund repair of roads and bridges, as well as new projects such as light rail and transit upgrades. Hornstein’s bill, which is backed by the advocacy coalition MoveMN, passed on a 9-6 party line vote. Soon after the vote, Thissen poured water on the development, releasing a statement saying the bill “will not progress any further session” without support of Republicans or the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, both of whom spoke out against the funding bill. Undeterred, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he plans to hear the companion bill in his Senate committee as soon as next week, and is confident he has the requisite number of votes to pass the proposal in the upper chamber.

3.) MPR reports that MNsure is ramping up its appeal to the 18-34-year-old demographic – the so-called “young invincibles” – as a March 31 enrollment deadline approaches. That outreach includes PSAs by the two young Somali men from Minnesota who appeared in the film “Captain Phillips,” Barkhad Abdi and Faysal Ahmed. Estimates indicate that in order for the Obamacare-spawned insurance exchange to operate sustainably, about 40 percent of private insurance buyers need to be drawn from the ranks of the invincibles; currently, however, their enrollment in MNsure is running at about half that pace (21 percent).


  • Outgoing Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, will run for the Dakota County Board of Commissioners this year, the Lakeville Sun reports. Holberg, now in her eighth term in the House, would be challenging incumbent Paul Krouse, 72, who has suffered through health issues and is unsure if he will  seek re-election.
  • Republican Secretary of State candidate John Howe, a former one-term state senator from Red Wing, tells PIM that he’s thinking of putting “$100,000 or more” of his own money into his campaign, owing in part to what Howe called “a very difficult fundraising environment out there now.” Howe has said he’ll seek and abide by the party’s endorsement.
  • Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and his wife Kim welcomed a baby girl into their family on Wednesday, the AP reports. Zellers, now a GOP gubernatorial hopeful, said he did not anticipate the new child would affect his ability to campaign for office.
  • Former House minority leader and DFL gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza has endorsed Mohamud Noor over Entenza’s former colleague, Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, in the heated DFL endorsement battle in House District 60B, according to MinnPost  reporter Jim Nord.
  • Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden announced a pair of legislative endorsements, earning the support of Rep. Ernie Leidiger, R-Mayer, and Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville. Leidiger is the fourth House GOP member to endorse the former investment executive, and Hall is the third member of the Senate GOP caucus to back McFadden.

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