Minnesota lawmakers tackling public safety, taxes
Democrats control both the Minnesota House and Senate, but they’re taking different approaches in their public safety and tax bills.
The main thing they have in common is very little input from Republicans, who are in the minority in both bodies.
The differences are most pronounced in the tax bill. The Senate Tax Committee rolled out its proposed tax bill that includes slightly larger tax rebates than the House proposes.
The Senate bill calls for $279 rebates for single tax filers and $558 for joint filers. The House proposed $275 and $550 rebates. Both are much smaller than the $1,000 and $2,000 rebates proposed by Gov. Tim Walz.
The Senate also proposes a variety of child tax credits similar to a House proposal. Both bills also include a new tax on overseas profits earned by Minnesota multinational corporations. Republicans call that tax increase “anti-business” and note that it comes while the state has a nearly $18 billion surplus.
“This is a massive tax increase,” says Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona. “It’s $1.2 billion, and I think we’re just trying to understand.”
Democrats say most of the budget surplus is one-time money, and more money is needed to cover what will be ongoing expenses.
Neither the Senate nor House tax bills eliminate the state tax on Social Security income even though many Democrats and all Republicans campaigned for it, and polling shows it’s very popular with Minnesotans. Sen. Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown, is among the newly-elected Democrats who campaigned in favor of elimination. On Wednesday, he said he’ll vote for just another partial reduction.
Hauschild said he’s voting for “Seventy-eight percent, a vast majority of our seniors, to eliminate their tax on social security, but also providing over a billion dollars in child care for our young families.”
“The tax bill taxes Minnesota businesses on income not even generated in Minnesota; other proposed bills will increase sales tax, license tab fees, and payroll taxes, impacting every Minnesotan — regardless of income,” says Republican Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson.
“With an $18 billion historic surplus, no Minnesotan should pay higher taxes next year. Democrats have made it clear there is never enough money for government, and they are willing to do anything to get it.”
Over in the House, a public safety bill passed on a largely party-line vote of 69 to 60. The bill includes controversial gun control measures, including expanding background checks to include person-to-person gun sales.
“Background checks work,” said Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul. “Millions of times in the past 20 years when people have gone to dealers trying to buy a gun, they’ve done a background check, and they’ve been stopped. People who are illegal to buy a gun they go and still try to buy a gun, and thank goodness they get stopped….but then they go to a private seller, and the transaction can go through.”
Republican Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, offered an amendment to delete that provision saying the state needs to do a better job enforcing existing gun laws. “If we could all make the effort to prosecute criminals that commit crimes, that 92 percent, that would be great,” he said during a House floor debate.
The other gun provision would create “extreme protection orders,” also known as “red flag laws,” to take guns from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Republicans say such laws take away a person’s right to due process under the law. “This violates due process,” says Rep. Pam Altendorf, R-Red Wing. “This violates civil rights. This violates our constitutional rights.”
Democrats counter that these laws are just common sense. “People do want common sense gun safety laws,” argues Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope. “People do want safety in their communities.”
Differences in both the tax and public safety bills need to be worked out before the legislature’s deadline to adjourn the third week in May.