House leaders talk taxes, schools and stadium

/ 16 March 2012 / jennifer

Sue Hegarty, Session Daily, March 16, 2012 –

Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) explained the omnibus tax bill during the weekly Republican media briefing, saying it is aimed at trying to make Minnesota a more competitive place to do business.

“We want to keep the employers that are here, here, and we want them to be able to expand and to give them a good reason to do that,” Davids said.

To help with that, HF2337, which he sponsors, would:

• increase the research and development business credit by $25 million in order to create high paying jobs;

• increase the angel investment tax credit by $5 million more;

• allow small businesses to take upfront capital exemptions rather than as refunds; and

• fund a higher education intern program aimed at keeping talent in Greater Minnesota.

House Speaker Rep. Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) said business owners used up all of the current angel tax credit allocation and “that’s a good thing.”

Davids also said a “net operating loss carry forward” provision, modeled after a New Jersey program, would allow a start-up business to sell their losses to a more profitable company, thereby infusing money into the start-up and to create capital.

Other provisions include tax credits for hiring military veterans, property tax reductions for businesses and it would grant a 10-year extension on one of the Mall of America’s tax increment financing contracts.

House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) said as the session continues, it has become clear that there are fundamental differences in Republican and Democrat priorities.

“We’ve heard a lot of talk about the 99 percent and the 1 percent over the last several months. Here’s an interesting example of this — 99 percent of the tax relief in this bill goes to big corporations. One percent goes to residential property tax relief, and it’s paid for by raising taxes on renters,” Thissen said.

Republican House leaders also lauded Thursday’s passage of a bill that would use the state’s projected budget surplus to pay back some of the education funding that was shifted to balance the budget last year.

Democrats unsuccessfully offered amendments to pay off the schools over a longer period of time, preferring not to drain the state’s reserves. “The Republicans instead chose a very irresponsible approach,” Thissen said.

Both parties acknowledged that a plan to use the General Fund as a safety net to back up gambling revenues to partially fund a new Vikings stadium is a problem, and that a stadium bill might not meet a self-imposed deadline for committee action.

“I think there’s still an opportunity today in the Senate and we’ll address it after that,” Zellers said. “Until there are some very significant questions answered, I think the rules and deadline are the least of the questions to be answered.”

“We need to get some understanding about (Zellers) willingness to push this through to process,” Thissen said.

– Sue Hegarty