The objective of the 2017 Minnesota legislature was to pass the biannual budget. They almost completed it. At the end of the last session, Gov. Dayton vetoed the operating budgets for the House and Senate. It was an attempt to get the Republican majority to reverse their passage of some financial bills that the Governor originally accepted and then changed his mind. So the start of the 2018 legislative session needed to redo what Gov Dayton has (again) indicated he’ll sign.
The legislature in 2018 would usually tackle capital expenditures and bonding bills. However, as pointed out by Kyle Potter and Youssef Rddad in AP News priority should be given to bring the Minnesota tax code into alignment with recently passed federal tax breaks. If it is not, Minnesota tax payers will face increased tax complexity and possibly some tax increases. The Department of Revenue has said that leaving the MN code as it is could trigger costly and time-consuming corrections – even audits – if files have to figure out how to meet different and potentially conflicting requirements.
The MN Department of Revenue provides its update on the state’s finances in March. This report could make a critical difference, as the December estimate projected a small budget deficit for 2018. The current thinking is there will actually be a sizeable surplus rather than a small deficit.
A push for greater gun control may also vie for legislators’ attention this session, including measures to expand background checks on firearm sales. Mike Hanks, writing in the Sun Current, notes that Richfield Rep. Linda Slocum (D-50A) plans to introduce a bill that will push to
- ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons
- make gun and ammunition purchasing a more regimented process.
- better track residents with criminal records, the mentally ill, and residents who aren’t paying child support when it comes to purchasing guns
- provide time for police departments to review applications for gun purchases
Our recommendation: State Republican legislators may want to wait until it is clear what actions, if any, will be taken in Washington.
Back to the primary reason the legislature is in session, there are a number of important infrastructure projects in our area that need addressing. While Gov Dayton has proposed spending well in excess of previous such budgets and will likely get less than half of what he requested this year, one proposal has particular merit. Local lawmakers have come out in support of the first phase of an upgrade of the I-35W / I-494 interchange. The first step would add a ramp for northbound I-35W traffic traveling west on I-494. Proceeding in stages will be easier to finance and less disruptive to traffic. It will also coincide with the construction of the Bus Rapid Transit Orange Line.
Gov Dayton’s budget also includes nearly $13 million for work at Normandale Community College. It would include classroom renovation, reorganization of student support services, and the tackling of deferred maintenance projects.