The Legislature entered its fourth week of the session pushing bills through committees in the House and the Senate to meet today's first committee deadline. Most of the public focus was on the Senate where it worked on the omnibus tax bill in the Tax Committee and on the Senate Floor. A major transportation funding package passed a key House committee, but it is unclear whether that bill has enough support to be signed into law this year.

Taxes

On Thursday, the Senate Tax Committee discussed the omnibus tax bill, HF1777, authored by Representative Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington). The bill includes $503 million in tax relief primarily to conform the state's individual and corporate franchise tax code with recent changes in the federal tax code, retroactive to tax year 2013. The bill also repeals three business-to-business sales taxes that were enacted last session, including the repair and maintenance of business equipment, telecommunications equipment purchases, and storage and warehousing services. 

During the hearing, Senator Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook) offered a "delete-all" amendment replacing the House language with Senate language. The two versions have many similarities and a few different provisions. The Senate version totals $432 million in federal tax code conformity and repeals the same three business-to-business sales taxes. The Senate bill also repeals the gift tax, amends the estate tax and places $150 million into the budget reserve.

The committee passed the bill to the Senate Floor. Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) moved to suspend the Senate rule that stipulates a bill must wait 24 hours before passage. The necessary two-thirds vote failed as the minority wanted more time to review the bill before final adoption.

As of publication, the Senate was debating the bill on the floor. The House is waiting to hold a floor session later today where it will decide whether it supports the Senate language or moves the bill to a conference committee where key legislators will discuss the differences and work out an agreement for final passage. Governor Mark Dayton has been pushing for legislators to pass a final bill this week and is willing to sign the legislation as soon as it reaches his desk.

Transportation

The House Transportation Finance Committee passed HF2395, authored by Representative Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis), by a 9-6 vote on Thursday. The bill is a transportation funding package that would create a new wholesale fuel tax and would expand the metro area transit sales tax. The bill would raise around $550 million annually to invest in roads, bridges, bus and rail projects across the state. The bill was sent to the Tax Committee, but it is unclear if the legislation will move any further as House and Senate leadership have said that without the support of the business community and Republicans it is unlikely to pass this session.

The Senate companion bill, SF2107, authored by Senator Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), is waiting for a hearing in the Transportation and Public Safety Division.