House could debate Vikings stadium bill today; passed tax legislation
by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
The Republican House could take up the Vikings stadium conference committee report late this evening — Day 118 of the legislative
session — and possibly even vote to finish the 2012 legislative session.
“We do have a Day 119,” said House Majority Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, of an extra constitutional day that they could be used.
But Dean repeatedly spoke of legislators having purchased plane tickets and planning vacations — House Tax Committee Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, indicated that there was no way he would miss his daughter graduating from Baylor University in Texas on Saturday — and wanting to wrap up its work and move on.
“(But) we have to work until we’re done,” he said.
But other than the stadium bill, no other major bill awaits action in the House.
The House today (May 9) passed tax bills that freeze 2013 city local government aid (LGA) payments for larger cities at 100 percent of 2012 levels and for smaller cities with populations under 5,000 at 2012 or 2013 levels, which ever is greater.
The tax provisions also include a one-year freeze of the statewide business property tax inflation adjustor.
Davids, who originally looked to phase-out of the statewide business property tax, then freeze the inflator, and now just freeze the inflator for a year, styled the shortened timeline as acceptable.
They can come back next year and work on the tax, he explained.
“If we’re (Republicans) not the majority, they’ll (Democrats) will just repeal all of our good tax policy anyway,” he said.
Democrats on the House floor indicated the tax bills — one that still needs to be passed by the Republican Senate — fell well short in their eyes.
“What’s the polite way to say, ‘Screw you,’” said Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, of the loss of $1.3 million in projected LGA slated for the City of Brooklyn Park.
Indeed, Hortman argued that the northwest metro suburbs in general is shortchanged by the Republican tax bill.
“Buffalo and Elk River really get whacked,” said Hortman.
The tax bill sends a clear message to the northwestern suburbs, she explained.
“We like to cut you. And here it comes,” Hortman said.
For his part, Davids argued that because of the workings of the LGA formula some suburban cities, such as Brooklyn Park, would have received “windfalls” at the expense of hundreds of smaller cities.
“They’re not getting cut from anything they ever had,” said Davids on the House floor.
House Property and Local Tax Committee Chairwoman Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, style LGA as a “slush fund” for some cities that has little accountability attached to it.
Although some Democrats credited Republicans with “doing the right thing” for smaller cities in their treatment of LGA, they faulted the process by which the tax bills arrived on the House floor.
“I know we’re at the end of the session and we’re tired. But process matters,” said Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington.
Lenczewski explained she had to scramble to try to learn details about the tax bills.
In addition to the one year inflator freeze, the tax bills include a jobs tax credit for the first 1,250 qualified veterans hired — the program is part of a proposal that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton championed — and capital equipment upfront sales tax exemption for small businesses with 50 employees or fewer.
Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, said about 14 percent of Minnesota manufacturers will qualify for the upfront exemption.
“So this is a good idea. And it’s permanent,” said Loon.
She further praised the angel tax credit increase from $12 million to $16.5 million for one year found in the tax bill.
“It’s a one time bump — I wish it were more,” she said.
Other provisions in the tax bill include City of Bloomington tax increment financing (TIF) provisions for the Mall of America, TIF provisions for the City of Brooklyn Park, as well as TIF provisions for the Dakota County Community Development Agency.
The tax bill creates a $73 million hole in the state budget in the upcoming spending cycle — Republicans look to tapping the state budget reserve for extra dollars for the bill.
Davids styled the main tax bill as another “smokin’ hot” tax bill.
“I don’t know what more I could have done to get the governor to sign this,” he said, speaking off the House floor.
A Dayton Administration official indicated the governor would review the bills.
“The governor will certainly review it when it comes to his desk,” said spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci in an email. “But I will remind you that this bill has not been negotiated with the administration,” she said.
Democrats on the House floor found fault with the legislation.
“It’s the same failed concept — that government knows best how to create jobs,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.
Rep. John Benson, DFL-Minnetonka, said he personally found the tax provisions in the bill acceptable.
“(But) you have to come up with a way to pay for a tax cut before you give one,” he said.
Dean on the House floor encouraged Democrats to support the tax bill.
“Don’t pretend it doesn’t (create jobs),” said Dean.
People have suggested the stadium bill would be held hostage to the tax bill, explained Dean.
“They’re not hostage anymore,” he quipped.
The conference committee tax bill passed the House on a 73 to 56 vote.
The Senate has yet to act on the bill.
The House agreed to concur to a smaller tax bill pass early this morning by the Senate.
The Senate could take up the conference committee tax bill tonight.