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Greater Mankato Growth is committed to providing our members with the information and opportunity they need to be advocates on their own behalf on issues affecting business. The purpose of this page is to disseminate timely and balanced information that will allow you to get engaged in policy matters that are important to you. The page will be continuously updated, so check back often.
This webpage lists active policy issues selected by GMG staff that have broad-based impacts on business or are of special concern to the Greater Mankato area. Each issue is summarized in a factual and neutral manner and links are provided to relevant articles or bill texts when appropriate.
GMG members (as well as the general community) are welcome to review the information presented and, if they are so inclined, contact their elected officials to make their views known, on the issue.
Current Issues (Updated 3/18/15):
- Economic Development / Jobs
- Health and Human Services
- Other Issues
2015 Legislative Session Outlook
The Minnesota Legislature convened on January 6, 2015. The big news from November’s election is that Minnesotan’s returned Governor Dayton to office while 11 seats in the Minnesota House of Representatives (including 10 in Greater Minnesota) switched from DFL to Republican control, putting Republicans in charge of that chamber and ending two years of complete DFL control of state government.
The major task of the Legislature this year is to write a new biennial state budget, a task that is expected to be easier this year than in years past when legislators faced multi-billion dollar deficits and government shutdowns with the announcement in February that the state is running a nearly $2 billion surplus. Legislators are already being bombarded with suggestions for how that surplus money ought to be spent, saved or returned to the taxpayers. In short, our elected leaders will be making decisions on critical issues impacting the vitality of your business and our regional marketplace. It’s essential that businesses be engaged and visible in this legislative process.
In February, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released its updated economic and budget forecast. The estimate shows that the state is running a budget surplus of nearly $2 billion as legislators write the FY 16-17 biennial budget. Governor Dayton has proposed a budget that would dedicate approximately 80% of surplus funds to boosts in education funding from pre-K, to K-12 and higher education. Remaining surplus dollars would be spent on other priorities such as nursing homes, Greater Minnesota broadband deployment, and worker training. The House and Senate have not yet released their proposed budgets, however, it's expected that a significant portion of the House Republican budget proposal will include tax cuts.
> 3/17/15 - Dayton proposes $865 million in extra spending in $42-billion budget plan
> 3/14/15 - Dayton, Republicans have different visions for $1.9 billion surplus
> 3/3/15 - Minnesota's budget process, explained
> 2/27/15 - Minnesota budget forecast shows larger than expected surplus
> 2/24/15 - MnSCU seeks additional $142 million to cover inflationary costs and freeze tuition
The budget surplus makes it exceedingly likely that the legislature will explore a number of tax reform proposals. While the Governor included minimal tax cuts in his supplemental budget, Republicans in the House have suggested that as much as $1 billion of the surplus may be used for tax cuts. The Legislature passed a bill right away to conform certain provisions in the State’s tax code with the Federal tax code in time for the 2014 tax filing season. Additionally, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce will strongly advocate for changes to the corporate income tax, business income that is taxed at the individual rate, research and development tax credits, the estate tax and the state business property tax.
> 2/27/15 - Bigger MN budget surplus sets up battle over taxes
> 1/15/15 - Tax conformity is first bill to pass off House Floor
> 1/2/15 - Flush with $1 billion surplus, MN lawmakers eye targeted tax relief
> 1/2/15 - Minnesota Legislature urged to pass tax code conformity bill
> 1/2/15 - Major changes to Minnesota tax code appear unlikely in coming legislative session, sides say
A combination of inflation, changing driving habits and increased fuel economy makes the gas tax an increasingly unsustainable transportation revenue source long-term. Meanwhile, transportation needs continue to expand with population and economic growth. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) the cost to complete needed improvements and make strategic investments in the state’s transportation network exceeds projected revenue by an estimated $50 billion over the next 20 years, including a $12 billion gap for state highways and bridges alone.
This year, legislative leadership and Governor Dayton have all indicated that transportation funding will be a top priority. However, the extent to which new/increased tax revenue should play into the transportation funding solution vs. redirecting existing funding streams (like the general fund and bonding) will be hotly debated. Governor Dayton and the DFL-led Sentate have introduced transportation plans that would place a new 6.5% sales tax on wholesale gas as well as increase vehicle registration fees and seek greater MnDOT efficiencies. While the House Republican's have not yet released their updated plan, they have suggested that tax increases for transportation are off the table and will use general fund and surplus dollars to boost transportation spending.
Greater Mankato Growth will play an active role in finding transportation funding solutions. In December, Greater Mankato Growth’s Board of Directors approved the organization’s policy priorities for 2015, placing transportation at the top of the organization’s priority list. When our members were asked about transportation issues in a survey last year, more than 72% of respondents said that the state needs additional revenue to keep our transportation system safe, effective and properly maintained. For that reason, Greater Mankato Growth will support a comprehensive funding solution this legislative session that meets the future needs of Minnesota’s transportation system by securing increased and stable revenue streams, promoting efficiencies, and favoring transportation expansion projects that have an economic development nexus and return on investment. While Greater Mankato Growth has not yet taken a position on any transportation revenue plan, we will ensure our members can play an active role in the issue through member surveys, forums and individual meetings with key stakeholders.
Additionally, Greater Mankato Growth will continue to advocate for the completion of Highway 14 as a consistent four-lane corridor. Completing this long overdue project will ease critical bottlenecks and support economic growth by providing the infrastructure necessary to connect the thriving regional trade centers of Rochester, Owatonna, Greater Mankato and New Ulm. Greater Mankato Growth will strongly support the U.S. Highway 14 Partnership’s request for continued state investment in the Corridors of Commerce Program, which over the past two years has injected more than $82 million into Highway 14 projects.
> 3/10/15 - Can anyone find common ground to fund Minnesota roads?
> 1/26/15 - How a gross receipts tax on gasoline would actually work
> 1/13/15 - Two for the roads: comparing the parties' transportation funding plans
> 1/12/15 - Democrats' $800 million transportation plan relies on new taxes
> 1/9/15 - Dayton gets feisty, calls Republican transportation plan 'pure fantasy'
> 1/8/15 - Transportation interest group proposes hefty spending plan for roads, bridges, transit
> 1/8/15 - Big gap in road-fixing plans means bigger fight at Capitol
> 12/30/15 - Mark Dayton wants to limit tax increases to transportation funding
> 12/15/15 - On the roads, again: lessons from the last big transportation debate
> HF 4 - House transportation bill
> SF 87 - Senate transportation bill
> Governor Dayton's Transportation Plan
> Transportation Finance Advisory Committee: Governor Dayton convened this group in January 2012 to develop recommendations for the next 20 years to fund and finance the state’s highways, roads, bridges and public transport systems, as well as its air, rail and port facilities.
> MnDOT 20 year Minnesota State Highway Investment Plan
> 3/28/14 - GMG Letter to Legislators in support of Corridors of Commerce funding
Greater Mankato Growth is a member of the Greater Minnesota Partnership (GMNP), a coalition of businesses, chambers of commerce, economic development authorities, cities and nonprofits from throughout Greater Minnesota that advocates for state economic development policies and resources that benefit Greater Minnesota. This year GMNP will focus their efforts on enacting a new employee job training program for Greater Minnesota Businesses as well as finding a statewide solution to workforce housing issues that are being felt across Greater Minnesota. Additionally, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has stated that it will seek to repeal the automatic inflator to the minimum wage that kicks in in 2018.
Education is shaping up to be a premier issue in the 2015 legislature. Governor Dayton in his innagural address said he'll devote his next four years to "regaining our state’s position as a national and global leader in education excellence." The Senate DFL has proposed free education at the state's two-year colleges, loan forgiveness for rural doctors and dentists, new worker training programs, and funding for early childhood education. House Republicans have introduced bills to reform teacher retention policies by focusing on merit instead of senority, implement new teacher licensure standards, and a proposal to allow the state's teacher evaluation system to be used when schools reduce staff. Additionally, the Greater Minnesota Partnership, an organization that GMG belongs to, will be promoting a bill that would provide incentives to employers for on the job training.
> 2/21/15 - Minnesota lawmakers aim to revamp seniority rules on teacher layoffs
> 1/16/15 - DFL senator breaks from party to introduce bill that would strip teacher seniority
> 1/15/15 - DFL plan for free two-year college draws fire
> 1/13/15 - UMN president seeks more state funding for tuition freeze
The Legislature generally focuses on the state’s capital investment needs in the second year of the biennium (in this case the 2016 legislative session). While the Legislature may pass a bonding bill this year addressing emergency needs, it is expected to be small. However, that could change if the Legislature determines that the bonding bill should be a vehicle for an increase in transportation.
The new Republican majority in the House has created a new Committee on aging and long-term care policy, indicating that they intend to take action to address serious issues with the state’s long-term care system for seniors.
- Sunday Sales of Liquor – A perennial issue at the capitol, the Legislature will likely again look at legalizing the sale of liquor in Minnesota on Sundays. 38 other states, including all the states adjoining Minnesota allow Sunday sales.