Confusion and delay define current state of legislative session

At least there won’t be a special session (we hope!).

With less than two weeks to go in the 2014 legislative session, there appear to be more questions than answers as to what will become law and what projects and initiatives will be funded. Many of the Greater Minnesota Partnership’s proposals and provisions are still alive in either the Tax Conference Committee or the Budget Conference Committee.

While it is fantastic to be “in the game” at the end, there are some larger issues at play that may cause us problems down the road. Governor Dayton issued a letter this week saying that the legislature is spending too much money by creating just shy of $300 million in new programming. While a letter is not the end of the world, the underlying threat of a veto may cause legislative leadership to rethink the entire supplemental budget.

The GMNP has been hard at work protecting our initiatives, especially in the areas of broadband and job training, which appear to be the projects most likely to be harmed if the Governor’s letter forces a change in spending levels. We will work diligently to preserve these important programs.

Here is the update on the economic provisions still in play:

• The Tax Conference Committee has adopted changes to make the Greater Minnesota Business Expansion Credit easier to use by simplifying the number of employees and capping the grants. This program allows a sales tax exemption on construction materials for businesses that have a growing workforce and may need to build an addition to their current facilities. The adopted provision simply says a business must be adding 10 percent of its workforce in new employees to qualify and caps the grants so that one entity cannot absorb all of the money.

• The House version of the Angel Investor Tax Credit fixes have been adopted by the Tax Conference Committee, which means half of the angel investor money will be set aside for Greater Minnesota for nine months and industries eligible for this credit have been expanded to include agribusiness, manufacturing and tourism. These changes will make the program far more usable for businesses in Greater Minnesota. However, the committee did not take any action to adjust the mandated wage to something more usable in Greater Minnesota — unfortunately, it was a non-starter with both sides.
(…continued) Confusion and delay define current state of legislative session

• Technical changes to the Greater Minnesota Internship Program were adopted which will allow more students to use the program. The changes remove restrictive language regarding “closely related to field of study” and shorten the required length of an internship from 12 weeks to eight.

• The Tax Conference Committee has yet to address the Volunteer First Responder Credit, which will help cities offer a stipend to volunteer firefighters or EMS providers.

• The Tax Conference Committee also has yet to adopt language related to workforce housing, but it discussed creating a grant program for areas that have been hit the hardest by the housing shortage.

• Since nothing has been done by the Budget Conference Committee, the GMNP’s broadband and job training initiatives remain up in the air. Legislative leadership is stepping in to take care of this committee, which means there may not be another meeting until the budget bill is finalized. Because of the negotiations currently taking place behind closed doors, the GMNP is devoting a lot of time to talking to our allies on these issues to figure out who is making decisions and then meeting with those lawmakers.

Please watch your e-mail for potential “Action Alerts” as we sprint toward the end of session!