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PROUDLY SERVING SENATE DISTRICT 58
THE WEEK ENDING:
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2013
Yesterday the Senate passed S.F. 119, a tax “conformity” bill, getting Minnesota’s income tax system updated to adjust to changes made at the federal level. The bill provided nearly $20 million in tax relief, and extended many provisions important to Minnesotans. Significant provisions 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 applies to your 2012 taxes. Believe it or not, Minnesota has never agreed to eliminate the so-called marriage penalty. Senate Republicans attempted to amend the conformity bill to eliminate the marriage penalty. Unfortunately, DFL legislators are unwilling to do this. Had the proposal been included in the bill, an estimated 605,600 married filers would have seen average additional tax relief of $114 according to Department of Revenue estimates. After passage by the Senate, the bill now awaits final action in the House to determine if the bill moves on to Governor Dayton, or whether additional work is needed in a conference committee.
Medical Existence Expansion, HF 9/SF 5, passed the Senate and House, and will be sent to the Governor for his signature. I voted against this bill, and am very concerned about what this means for our state. The federal government has agreed to pay for 90% of this expansion on an ongoing basis. However, I do not believe we should commit Minnesotans to these kinds of programs in exchange for money from the federal government. This is how we lose control of our budget, and there is no guarantee that the federal government will live up to the promise to pay. Senator Sean Nienow (R– Cambridge) introduced amendments that would help us to get out of the program in the event the federal government does not fund it as promised. The DFL majority rejected his amendments.
The Education Committee passed S.F. 146 to significantly expand the school lunch program. Current federal law makes students eligible for “free” or reduced lunch, depending upon family income. According to Chief Author Senator Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis), the 40 cents required for each reduced price lunch is too much for some families. Hayden’s solution is to increase state aid so that all students eligible for the reduced price lunch would not have to pay anything. I was shocked to learn that students can qualify for reduced (and perhaps now free) lunch, even if the family income approaches the state median! So my concern is that we are expanding this program well beyond students from poor families. It does not seem that is the intent of the program.
TRANSPORTATION Next week, the Transportation Committee will hear S.F. 256 which requires drivers to turn on their headlights all the time. It will also hear S.F. 174, a bill that would allow the Metropolitan Council to design and construct the Dan Patch Commuter Rail Line, which would run between Minneapolis and Northfield. Current law prohibits the agency from doing any planning, design, or construction related to the rail line. When this law was passed, the Dan Patch Rail Line was very controversial because many legislators were concerned about the price and impact of the line. I do not believe an unelected group of people should be engaged in this kind of planning and spending. The legislature should severely curtail the authority of the Met Council.
CONNECT WITH SENATOR THOMPSON:
www.senate.mn/SenatorThompson www.twitter.com/ThompsonSenate Sen.Dave.Thompson@senate.mn