The 2017 legislative session came to an end May 26 after several days of special session resulted in the approval of several bills helping to establish the state budget for the 2017-18 biennium.
However the back and forth dialogue continued into this week when the governor signed nine of those bills but left some things up in the air.
Gov. Mark Dayton as well as District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms and District 16B Rep. Paul Torkelson took time May 31 to offer some perspective on the end of the special session and the impact the bills that were approved are going to have on the state.
Dayton spoke in a conference call with rural reporters that Wednesday morning, while Dahms and Torkelson hosted a series of town hall meetings in the district to include a stop at city hall in Redwood Falls.
Dayton shared that he has strong disagreements with each of the bills he signed.
“I believe the fiscal integrity of the state has very much been put at risk,” said Dayton, adding the tax bill he approved offered excessive tax breaks for those who really do not need it. “There is nothing in this bill for working Minnesotans.”
Dahms and Torkelson said nothing could be farther from the truth.
“If you take a look at what’s in the tax bill this is certainly not protecting the wealthy,” said Dahms.
Provisions in the tax bill provide child care credits and family tax credits, as well as student loan credits and education tax credits, added Dahms.
There is also funding provided in the tax bill to address local government aid for cities as well as program aid for counties. Dahms said the one area that might be considered a tax for higher income earners is the estate tax pass through, which is currently at $1.8 million and will go to $2 million in 2018.
By 2022 that pass through will be incrementally increased to $3 million. Another provision that was included in the tax bill is a tax credit on agricultural land.
Under that provision a 40 percent credit will be given to farmers for the portion of their property taxes coming from a new or existing school capital improvement levy.
Dahms said in some areas of the state, including southwest Minnesota, the land values put owners of that land in a position where they are paying a significant share of those levies, and this provision in the tax bill would provide some relief for them.
“This provision is critical for addressing the current agricultural economy in Minnesota and the burden placed on farmers as it relates to the amount of property taxes paid toward school debt bond levies in a bipartisan and positive manner,” said Kevin Paap, Minnesota Farm Bureau president, in a recent press release.
Gary Wertish, Minnesota Farmers Union president, echoed that sentiment in a recent press release.
“MFU would like to thank legislators from both parties, Governor Dayton and his administration for working hard to ensure that Minnesota farmers have the resources and support they need to prosper and continue farming,” said Wertish.
The controversy over the tax bill continues, as the governor signed it but also vetoed the portion that funds the legislature. During his conference call following a question regarding essential services, the governor questioned whether or not the legislature would be considered essential when it is not in session.
The governor’s veto came as a reaction to the decision by the legislature to add what has been called a “poison pill” that would have cut funding to the department of revenue had the governor not signed the tax bill
According to Torkelson, the reason that was included was to ensure the governor would sign the bill. What the legislature did not want was a repeat of the 2016 session when the budget bill that was sent to the governor was not signed due to minor changes that needed to be made.
Torkelson said while the governor had said he would sign the bill, the legislature wanted to make sure it happened.
The item regarding the department of revenue was included in the bill for some time, added Torkelson, which gave the governor time to know about it.
As is typically the case when the session comes to an end, both Dahms and Torkelson, as well as the governor stated there were things in the bills that were approved they did not like, but in the attitude of compromise all stated having a deal was what was most important for the state.
Among the other bills approved was an E-12 education bill that includes a 2 percent increase in the per pupil funding formula for each year of the current biennium, as well as a bonding bill that had a price tag of nearly $1 billion.
That bill, said Torkelson, is really the bill that should have been passed in 2016.
The Lake Redwood project did not make the final cut in the bonding bill.