This past Tuesday, the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives convened for the second year of the 88th Minnesota Legislature. This year’s short session has been touted as the “unsession” and is focused on repealing unnecessary regulations and laws in order to create a better state government that is more efficient and easier to understand. One of the top priorities is the passage of a bonding bill that will certainly attract some debate. While Governor Mark Dayton has recommended a bill around $1 billion, Republican legislators are hoping to keep capital investments below $850 million. Main bonding initiatives include restoration projects for the State Capitol, investments in the state’s universities and colleges, and public works projects in downtown areas across the state.
Other key legislation will concern taxes, a state minimum wage increase, and transportation proposals. A budget surplus is expected to put middle-class income tax relief and business-to-business taxes repeal at the forefront of the session’s agenda. Legislators are likely to propose a bill that would bring about conformity to federal taxes. Governor Dayton and some DFL lawmakers are also proposing a minimum wage increase and indexing it to inflation. Finally, some legislators are proposing increased taxes to fund highways and public transportation projects, especially since President Barack Obama proclaimed a $300 billion national initiative on Wednesday in Saint Paul. However, legislative leaders seem to be uninterested in raising taxes this year.
Much of this legislation will be affected by the response to the state’s economic forecast which was released earlier today by Minnesota Management & Budget. The forecast detailed a surplus of $1.23 billion for its biennial state budget. Certainly legislators’ plans for how to use the surplus will shape the discussion at the Capitol for the coming months. For more information, see Minnesota budget surplus grows to $1.23 billion.