Taxes: The House Taxes Committee voted out major tax bills yesterday, moving to repeal last session’s business-to-business taxes on equipment repairs and telecommunications equipment (both took effect in July, 2013) and a warehousing services tax scheduled to take effect on April 1. Also voted out of the Committee were bills regarding conformity to federal tax breaks, which are detailed in an article below. Personal estate and gift taxes are also being considered for repeal. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) has stated concern of approving tax cuts or spending increases that could lead to future budget shortfalls. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) has declared that tax relief is “priority number one.”
Minimum Wage Increase: Hundreds rallied at the State Capitol on Tuesday to support a minimum wage increase to $9.50. A conference committee met earlier today and was expected to adopt a report with the final version of the bill. Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL) has stated that the increase will be "one of the defining issues of our legislative session." While Governor Mark Dayton and many DFL members seem to be on board, Republican legislators have raised concerns about the proposal, especially regarding its impact on the state’s businesses.
Energy: The first formal measure of this year’s House was the unanimous passage of a $20 million bill to increase funding for the state’s energy assistance program to provide needed relief due to a very cold winter and high costs arising from the state’s propane shortage. The Senate passed the legislation days later, sending it to the governor for his signature.
Medical Marijuana Legalization: Assistant Majority Leader Carly Melin is authoring legislation to legalize medical marijuana which faces strong opposition from law enforcement groups. Governor Dayton has publicly stated he would not sign any related bill that is not supported by these law enforcement groups. Rep. Melin (DFL-Hibbing) has stated interest in a political compromise by legalizing the use of alternative forms of medication extracted from marijuana, rather than the plant itself.
Education: After nearly $500 million was appropriated in spending last year, there is likely to be major legislation regarding education policy, including anti-bullying measures and new certification requirements for teachers.