Last week was the first committee deadline in the House and Senate. Several important issues came up in St. Paul, and I would like to give you an update of what’s happening at the Capitol.
After pressure from Governor Dayton and House Democrats, the Senate finally acted on its own tax bill March 21. The House passed its original tax bill about two weeks earlier, understanding how urgent this issue is to Minnesota taxpayers.
The tax bill fixes some of the mistakes signed into law last year, conforming our state tax code to several federal provisions and repealing the three damaging business-to-business taxes signed into law from 2013.
These tax changes will have an effect on many taxpayers, and it is important to note what to do if you have already filed your return this year. If you have already filed and are eligible for more deductions, the Minnesota Department of Revenue will do one of three things:
• Fix the return and send a letter explaining what was fixed.
• Request more information from the taxpayer so that the department can fix the return.
• Notify taxpayers that the department can’t fix the return. If this happens, the taxpayer will need to file an amended return.
Revised house budget includes more spending
With Minnesota’s $1.2 billion surplus, the legislature is required to act on this extra revenue taken from taxpayers. I do not think the tax bill goes far enough, and all money should be returned to hardworking taxpayers and Minnesota families. Instead, Democrats are proposing to spend an additional $510 million on more government programs.
2013 was a year of historic tax and spending increases in Minnesota. The DFL increased government spending by $6,000 for every family of four — we do not need to grow government even more. This surplus should be fully refunded to taxpayers instead of being left in a vault in St. Paul for future wasteful projects and government growth.
Last week I attended a veterans rally at the Capitol and spoke to veterans and advocates from across the state. There the Minnesota Commanders’ Task Force unveiled its legislative priorities for 2014, and I am happy to say that several of their priorities are bills I have authored.
House File 2011 is a bill changing how veteran-owned small businesses are certified at the state level. Currently, to receive certification they must go through the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, and it can take months and a lot of paperwork.
Other certified businesses, including women and minority-owned, are certified through the Department of Administration. If veteran-owned businesses were also certified through this department, it would create more government efficiency while saving time and paperwork.
Another priority for veterans this year is exempting military pensions from state taxes.
Minnesota is one of the few states that still taxes military pensions, meaning retired military members are less likely to move to Minnesota. Many of these veterans are in their 30s and 40s, meaning when they choose a neighboring state that doesn’t tax their pension. They wil go there to work, pay taxes and raise a family.
House Files 59 and 2233 both support a military pension tax exemption. They were heard and passed out of the State Government Finance and Veterans Affairs Committee and are awaiting a hearing in the Taxes Committee.
Finally, House File 555, which I introduced last year, also would accomplish another veterans initiative — extending the market value exclusion for surviving spouses for deceased service members and permanently disabled veterans.
I will continue to work on behalf of veterans in our state and work to pass legislation that is important to them.
March 21 marked the first committee deadline in the House and Senate. This means that any bill introduced this biennium must be heard in at least one committee by then in order to advance forward this session.
More than 3,000 bills were introduced this session, and the ones advancing forward this year are a mix of good, bad and terrible. The second year in a biennium is considered a bonding year where the state borrows for a package of infrastructure and bonding projects needed across the state. Instead, many of the bills that have been passed in committees so far this year are unnecessary distractions and perfect examples of government overreach.
As we get closer to the end of session, I am hopeful that the legislature refocuses on important issues for our state instead of pushing through more problematic initiatives on the DFL’s wish list.
Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, represents House District 39A in the Minnesota House of Representatives. District 39A includes part of Stillwater, as well as several communities to the north up to Shafer.