This week at the Capitol the major focus was on a federal tax conformity bill which was heard in the Senate Tax Committee along with receiving final passage on the Senate Floor. This legislation aims to align Minnesota tax policy with that of the federal government.
Updating the state’s tax laws to the federal tax code is an important issue as Minnesota families across the state began filing their income tax returns. Timely resolution of tax conformity helps prevent the need for taxpayers to file amended returns. The tax conformity bill provided nearly $20 million in tax relief, and extended many provisions important to Minnesotans.
Significant provisions in the bill included an extension of the educator classroom expense deduction of up to $250, and an extension of the higher education tuition expense deduction. This relief would cover tax year 2012, the year that Minnesotans are now reporting on their income tax returns.
With final passage by the Senate on Thursday, this important legislation now heads to conference committee where differences between the House and Senate versions will be worked out. Once this occurs, both legislative bodies will re-pass the final agreement and it will be sent to the governor for his signature.
Also this week, I was proud to present S.F. 76 before the Senate Transportation Committee. This bill would rename a portion of Highway 23 after fallen Officer Tom Decker. The bill received unanimous support from members of the committee and was referred to the Senate Floor where it awaits final passage later this session.
A companion bill to S.F. 76 was passed last week in the House Transportation Committee. This bill, authored by Rep. Jeff Howe, awaits further action in that body.
Both the House and Senate passed an expansion of the Medical Assistance Program. This legislation expands eligibility up to 133 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines for parents, children ages 19 and 20, and single adults without children. Discussions continued in the Senate Higher Education Committee around funding for Minnesota’s two public higher education systems. This week, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system laid out their budget request for the committee. Some highlights of the request include:
• Money for a leveraged equipment fund to invest in up-to-date and new equipment in programs where there is high employment demand.
• Funding for a state-wide internship program that would connect students to job opportunities in communities where they go to school.
• Modifications to the State Grant Program formula to ensure students who attend school part time receive necessary financial assistance through the program. The Senate Education Committee held several hearings on state-wide testing for both students and teachers in the state. Discussions on issues related to testing and teacher licensure will continue throughout the session.