The Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to convene for the second year of its biennial legislative session on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at noon. Given the May 19, 2014, adjournment date and the forthcoming Election Day for all of the House seats and the Governor, the 2014 session will be limited in scope.
A statewide bonding bill, minimum wage increase, repeal of business-to-business sales taxes enacted in the 2013 session, and proposals for the Governor’s “Unsession” to roll back redundancies in law will be at the forefront of the 2014 agenda.
The primary focus will be passage of the bonding bill. Governor Dayton released a $986 million bonding proposal in the middle of January. The Governor is looking to aid higher education projects for the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and local government projects. A supermajority is needed to pass the bill, so Republicans will hold some sway in bargaining on the size of the bill and inclusion of their priority projects and policies.
The next State budget forecast, which will form the basis for the Governor’s Supplemental Budget, will be released on February 28, 2014. Proposals on how best to utilize the projected surplus are expected to include a repeal of the business-to-business sales taxes that were enacted in 2013 – commercial and farm equipment repair, commercial warehousing and telecommunications equipment. Also under consideration will be tax conformity to bring Minnesota’s tax law in line with recent changes to federal law.
At the end of last year, the Senate and House passed two different versions of bills to raise the minimum wage. The two versions (Senate at $7.75 and House at $9.50) are expected to be debated in conference committee with the resulting compromise delivered to the Governor before end of session.
Minnesota’s state-run health care exchange, MNsure, has been under scrutiny for months and will likely be debated this session. On the energy and environment front, hearings are being held on recycling and waste management and copper-nickel mining. Funding for new transportation projects are expected to be debated. Proposed funding sources include the gas tax and metro area sales tax, but have been met with reluctance by key legislators.