Column: A productive sessionST. PAUL — The final days of the legislative session came with bipartisan agreements on three major pieces of legislation including the Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, Bonding Bill and a stadium which houses the Minnesota Vikings.
By: District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, Worthington Daily Globe
ST. PAUL — The final days of the legislative session came with bipartisan agreements on three major pieces of legislation including the Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, Bonding Bill and a stadium which houses the Minnesota Vikings.
Lawmakers’ progress on significant pieces of legislation is a positive note to end session on. While we see many partisan days here at the Capitol, it’s refreshing have some days without it.
While I’m pleased the Tax Relief and Job Creation Act received legislative support, I’m extremely disappointed the measure was vetoed by Governor Dayton. It would have made Minnesota more competitive for businesses to grow and hire more Minnesotans.
By providing for a statewide business property tax freeze for one year, and an upfront sale tax exemption for capital equipment purchases, businesses would have had more funds to invest in their workforce. The bill also would have enhanced the Research & Development tax credit, the Minnesota Investment Fund, and Internship Grant program.
Also lost: Property tax relief to homeowners whose property taxes increased by more than 12 percent last year.
I am encouraged that Governor Dayton signed a separate bill that protects Southwest Minnesota cities funds by ensuring they’ll receive the greater of what they were paid in 2012 or what they expected to receive in 2013. Greater Minnesota towns like Pipestone, Fulda, and Hills have been asking, above all, for stability in their funding. The LGA provision gives local government early assurance moving forward with their budget process.
The 2012 bonding bill, which funds construction projects around the state, was also signed by the governor.
The bonding bill passed off the House floor with broad, bipartisan support. What made this bill different is it provided block funding instead of line by line projects. This takes a lot of the politics out of the process while funding vital projects across the state.
This year’s bonding bill spends $496 million on statewide construction needs. Highlights from the proposal include:
l $44 million to help restore the 100 year old crumbling State Capitol building
l $33 million for Rural Finance Authority Grants *More than $46 million for roads, bridges, and rural transit
l $6 million for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program
l $15 million for wastewater infrastructure, which assists small towns that can’t afford to build or upgrade their sewer systems
The Vikings Stadium, while not a top priority, had to be dealt with was passed and signed into law.
It’s unfortunate that this issue stole headlines all session while we focused on jobs, the economy, and reforming the way government serves the public. After a decade of politicians passing this difficult decision onto the next year and the next year, I am glad to see it resolved.
I originally had reservations about the stadium bill. The ability to find hundreds of millions of dollars for a stadium after just making difficult decisions on school and healthcare budgets is hard to justify. In the end, though, those dollars wouldn’t show the same type of return for the taxpayer if they went elsewhere, and spending in those areas would continually add to the growth of government.
While there were two sides battling between no public support and total public support, I was interested in getting the compromise that offered the fairest deal to the taxpayers. The final agreement requires 34.8 percent of the initial costs from the state, 15 percent from the city of Minneapolis where the stadium will be located, and over 50 percent from the Vikings.
The state’s portion will not come from general fund dollars, but from allowing electronic pulltabs to be operated in the state, along with a sports-themed lottery and a 10 percent luxury suite tax if needed.
With interest, the total state obligation for the 30-year agreement will be $540 million, or $18 million a year. In 2010, taxes paid directly from the Vikings, the players, and the visiting teams accounted for $20 million to the state. This doesn’t take into account the thousands of jobs that will be created during the three-year construction.
Regarding the electronic pulltabs and tipboards, it’s worth noting that this funding source will also provide lower taxes for charities first, with the remaining funds providing the money needed to pay off the state bonds for a Vikings stadium.
Among those in our district that would receive double digit tax decreases thanks to the charitable gambling provision: American Legion Post 322 Currie; Booster Currie Town and Country; American Legion Post 318 Fulda; Lions Hadley Club; American Legion Post; Optimist Luverne Club; Eagles Aerie 3403 Luverne; American Legion Post 123; American Legion Post 6 Pipestone; Slayton Volunteer Fire Dept Relief; and the Lions Wilmont Club.
Though this session was filled with highs and lows, I believe Minnesotans will find many positives in the Legislature’s accomplishments.