We are wrapping up the tenth week of session and in the midst of committee deadlines, marking the orderly progression of bills through each body. Today marks the first of three committee deadlines, meaning most bills must have had at least one committee hearing.
Our first deadline is weeks earlier than previous sessions, with the intent of making sure we get our work done on time. Yet, there is no deadline for when the large omnibus finance bills for final passage are released. You can read about my efforts last year to propose a fourth committee deadline one week before the end of session for these bills. Read more about last year’s press conference here. While receiving strong bipartisan support the deadline did not pass last year as evidenced by the fact that neither did the transportation, tax and bonding bills.
We must end “last-minute lawmaking,” which has plagued the legislature in recent memory with eleventh-hour debate and frustration. I have reintroduced the fourth committee deadline and have sponsored SF1553, which is aimed at increasing transparency and options for expanding public access to legislative records and meetings.
Following the release of an updated budget forecast, we are set on developing a responsible budget that prioritizes the well-being of all Minnesotans. As chair of the Senate E-12 Finance Committee, I am working to develop an education budget that finances early childhood education, community education, and K-12 schools – which makes up about 42% of the state budget. We must have a strong education target that will allow us to focus on students and fund what works. Our current nation leading achievement gap must be closed. The future of our state and nation depend on it!
On Monday, the Senate version of the REAL ID bill failed to pass 38-29. Five Republicans and all Democrats voted against the bill. I voted in favor of the bill and am extremely disappointed that it did not pass. Without this legislation, you will not be able to use your current Minnesota driver’s license to board an airplane or enter certain federal facilities after January 22, 2018.
The fate of the legislation remains murky. Later in the week, a motion passed to reconsider the bill and it was subsequently laid on the table, meaning the bill can be reconsidered by the full Senate at any point before the end of session in mid-May.
I am optimistic that we can work together and find a path forward so Minnesotans will not bear the added burden of needing a passport or enhanced drivers license for air travel.
The “Real” Budget Surplus
The recent budget forecast showed a projected $1.65 billion surplus. You can read my comments here.
Minnesota is one of the top taxed states in the nation and we must work to reduce our already high taxes.
Yet the reality of the actual surplus size means we must be balanced in our tax relief package and other spending.
Southeast Minnesota Day at the Capitol
On Wednesday, we welcomed the good citizens of southeastern Minnesota to our state Capitol as we celebrated the annual SE Minnesota Day at the Capitol. I am so proud to have constituents bring their voices to the Capitol. It is a great honor to serve SE Minnesotans in the Minnesota Senate.
I was glad to visit with Leadership Greater Rochester in the beautifully restored People’s House.
We have an extreme teacher shortage in Minnesota, but nowhere is that shortage felt more than with teachers of color. While our state’s population is growing increasingly diverse, that is not the case in our teacher ranks.
I worked with the Ethnic councils including the Minnesota Council of Latino Affairs, of which I am a member, to help addresses this issue.
SF1555 provides tools for local school districts to encourage hiring teachers of color. Our workforce shortage and our nation leading achievement gap demand that we get more teachers of color into our classrooms as one component of helping all Minnesota students be successful.
Adult & Teen Challenge
For thirty years, Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge has helped clients struggling with drug and alcohol addiction gain hope, healing, and freedom in their lives. The growing need for recovery services in the Rochester area led to a MN Adult & Teen Challenge site in Rochester in 2014. The extraordinary short- and long-term treatment center programs have some of the highest recovery success rates in Minnesota. That is why I sponsored legislation to allow MN Adult & Teen Challenge in Olmsted County to receive funding equal to similar sites. The bill received a warm reception from the committee and was laid over for possible inclusion in the human services budget bill.
R&D Credit, ASC
The greater Rochester area is home to leaders in technology, science, research and medicine. To better foster growth research and development, I authored SF417 and SF913 and to improve the competitiveness of our R&D tax credit. Minnesota was the first state to develop a R&D tax credit and many other states have since followed suit. Yet, the Minnesota credit has not been updated and is now no longer competitive. Qualifying expenses to determine the tax credit are based on costs from the 1980s. Think how prices have changed since the 80s! SF913 improves our R&D tax credit by updating how qualifying research expenses are determined and allowing for an Alternative Simplified Credit.
Charitable Gambling Tax Exemption
Charitable gaming – raffles, bingo, or pull tabs – donates proceeds from these games to worthwhile community organizations such as the Boy Scouts or a local youth hockey association. Charitable gaming pays tax on the donations it makes to charities! This is unlike individuals and for-profit businesses that receive a tax deduction for charitable contributions. Rochester Youth Hockey advocate Mark Hickey and veteran Andru Peters both testified that their organizations are now sending more dollars to the taxman than out the door in donations.
That’s why I authored SF419, a bill that allows a tax exemption on the donations distributed by charitable gambling. If this bill is successful, it will allow an estimated $16 million in donations to go back into the community. You can Post Bulletin.
You could get a larger refund through the K-12 Education Subtraction and Tax Credit. Check out this short video from the Minnesota Department of Revenue to find out more.
Do you want to become more involved in your state government? Check out the SOS website for vacancies on various state boards, councils and committees. You can apply online. Let me know if something catches your eye.
Take The Survey
Click here to answer this week’s survey question about the appropriate amount of tax reductions allowed by the surplus.
Senator Carla Nelson
95 University Ave W
3231 Minnesota Senate Building
Saint Paul MN 55155-1206