With the legislative session set for mandatory adjournment at midnight on Monday, May 20, legislative leaders scheduled sessions throughout the weekend to ensure the bodies complete their work by the deadline. A number of conference committees continued meeting throughout today to finalize budget bills prior to the weekend.

Taxes

After the preliminary budget targets were released on Sunday, May 12, co-chairs of the Taxes Conference Committee — Rep. Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington) and Sen. Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook) — sent a flurry of offers back and forth throughout the week. With very slow progress and a deadline approaching, Governor Dayton, Speaker Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) and Majority Leader Bakk (DFL-Cook) continued to meet throughout the week to finalize the budget.

On Thursday, Dayton, Thissen and Bakk emerged from negotiations with an agreement on the Omnibus Tax Bill. The agreement provides for $2 billion in new revenue and includes a new fourth-tier income tax bracket at 9.85 percent for the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans. The cigarette tax will increase by a total of $1.60 per pack, and part of the funding will be utilized to help fund the state portion of the new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. The tax plan also includes $400 million in property tax relief and funding for the Rochester Destination Medical Center expansion.

The Taxes Conference Committee was hashing out final details of the plan throughout today, including determining which business-to-business services will be included in the sales tax and which corporate loopholes will be closed.

Marriage Equality

On Monday, the Senate debated HF1054, sponsored by Sen. Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), in front of an estimated 6,000 citizens who came to rally for or against the bill. After nearly four hours of debate, the Senate passed the legislation that expands the word “marriage” to include same-sex couples with a vote of 37-30. One Republican voted in favor of the bill, while three DFL members voted against it.

On Tuesday, Dayton signed the bill on the Capitol steps in front of more than 6,000 citizens. Dayton thanked the legislators that carried the legislation and the activists that devoted time to helping it pass. He stated that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness include having the right to marry the person you love.