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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published August 12 2013

Minnesota GOP leader wants open tax change hearings

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota House Republican leader says he wants to make sure that overturning a tax on farm implement repair is done in the open, unlike when lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton approved the tax.

Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said Monday that during or before a special legislative session – tentatively planned for Sept. 9 – tax committees should hold public hearings on the plan to take the tax off the books.

Daudt said the tax was slipped in without any House hearings in May.

“He didn’t know what was in the bill,” Daudt said about Dayton, who last week said the tax should not have been passed. “If it is a mistake, let’s fix it in the light of day.”

Dayton said at Farmfest this past week that he thought the farm implement repair tax should be reversed in the special session and the money farmers already have paid should be returned.

Daudt said a tax on goods stored in warehouses also should be overturned during the special session. The session is being called to appropriate money to help communities affected by June storms and floods.

Dayton agreed that the warehouse tax should be eliminated, but at Farmfest he said that change can wait until the Legislature returns to its regular session Feb. 25, 2014. The tax does not begin until April.

Dayton also said all four legislative leaders, both Democrat and Republican, must agree on a special session agenda before he will call one. But Daudt said he has heard nothing from the governor.

“They haven’t reached out to me,” Daudt said.

Dayton spokesman Matt Swenson disputed that. He said Dayton’s office has been in regular contact with all four legislative leaders’ offices about the session for weeks.

A meeting of the governor’s staff and legislative leaders’ staff members is planned for this week.

Unions OK contract

The two largest unions serving state government workers voted to accept a contract giving them 3 percent annual pay raises.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Minnesota Association of Professional Employees approved the contract, which also requires state workers to pay more for their health insurance.

MAPE announced the pact, which will last through 2015, passed with more than 97 percent support. AFSCME did not report the vote

AFSCME represents 19,000 workers; MAPE has 13,000 members.

State revenue down

State individual and corporate income tax receipts were down in July, while sales taxes were up, an overall decrease of $20.7 million from projections, Minnesota officials reported Monday.

The forecast predicted $956 million in revenue, but just $936 million came into the state treasury.

Individual income taxes fell $13 million below expectations and corporate taxes were $12 million below. Other revenues were down nearly $18 million, but sales taxes were up more than $22 million.

State officials generally have reported more revenue than expected in recent months, but warned that there could be “wide swings” from month to month for a variety of reasons.

‘Repeal taxes’

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce wants the Legislature to overturn all businesses taxes approved in May.

The action could come during the special legislative session.

Gov. Mark Dayton told reporters this past week he supports eliminating a law taxing goods stored in warehouses, but said that should come next year because the tax does not begin until April.

The chamber asked Dayton and legislative leaders to remove labor taxes for business equipment repair, warehousing and telecommunications equipment purchases.

“We are aware of situations where expansion plans are now on hold or where companies are considering relocating some or all of their operations to other states,” chamber President David Olson wrote to Dayton and lawmakers.

Money comes in

A conservative group has received enough donations to remain alive.

Minnesota Majority told supporters if it did not raise $20,000 this past week that it would have to close. On Monday, President Dan McGrath announced that goal was met.

“I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our grassroots members,” McGrath said. “Over the last several days, we have been receiving a steady stream of mostly small contributions, ranging from $5 to $25 each.”

Still, McGrath said, there are financial challenges ahead. “For now, we will continue to innovate and provide value to our members while we work on reconnecting with donors and activists.”

Minnesota Majority has been active in fighting the unionization of home child care providers and exposing what it calls voter fraud.