Washington, D.C., takes center stage tonight as President Obama delivers the State of the Union speech. Minnesotans at the speech tonight include Sami Rahamim, whose father was killed in September in the shootings at Accent Signage in Minneapolis.
Minnesota House backs Medicaid expansion (MPR News)
The change brings more than 35,000 low-income Minnesotans closer to being eligible for the Medical Assistance subsidized health insurance program. The federal government promises to cover the full cost of the new enrollees through 2016."
Dayton signals support for Mayo Clinic plan (MPR News)
Mayo Clinic is lobbying the Legislature for $585 million in taxpayer money to make improvements to Rochester. "How we get there? We have to negotiate," Dayton said Monday. "But do we need to get there? I'm absolutely certain we do."
Where are the 4th bracketeers? (MPR News)
Gov. Mark Dayton's plan to generate $1.1 billion in new taxes from the state's highest earners the next two years is controversial. Politically, though, it ought to be a pretty easy vote for most of the state's lawmakers.
Capitol hearing: Insurance fraud on the rise (MPR News)
"Insurers says crooks are especially intent on exploiting Minnesota's no-fault auto insurance system, milking insurers with exaggerated or false injury claims."
Dayton: State budget 'is not supposed to be easy' (Star Tribune)
"It is not clear, it seems even to the governor, what the DFL-controlled Legislature will end up doing with the governor's tax plan. But he says raising taxes will allow spending on education and state services that the state desperately needs."
Minn. Senate backs 3 Dayton appointees (Associated Press)
"Senate backs Edwin Van Petten to lead the Minnesota State Lottery, Susan Haigh as chairwoman of the Metropolitan Council, and Carolyn Parnell as the state's chief information officer."
Gun control bills seeing opposition by Democrats & Republicans (WCCO)
"More than a dozen gun bills are awaiting action, including an assault weapons ban, limits on high capacity magazine clips, and requiring that body armor be registered. But Minnesota lawmakers are not on board, especially rural Democrats."
Minnesota House tussles over rules that govern them (Star Tribune)
"A more than eight-hour debate on Monday night lit up lawmakers' passions as they fought over a new rule to require amendments be filed a day before they can pop up in House floor debate."
Immigration: Minnesota lawmakers try to balance path to citizenship with need for workers (MPR News)
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, is pushing to allow more highly-skilled immigrants into the country, especially those with backgrounds in technology and science.
Limited impact of State of the Union speeches? (Washington Post)
Slower growth of health costs eases U.S. deficit (New York Times)
Partners of gays in service are granted some benefits (New York Times)
Special elections today for St. Cloud, N. Mankato House seats
Republican Tama Theis, Democrat Joanne Dorsher and Independence Party candidate Todd McKee are running in a St. Cloud area seat that was vacated when GOP Rep. Steve Gottwalt resigned to take a job as a lobbyist for a St. Louis Park-based Center for Diagnostic Imaging.
In the North Mankato area, Republican Allen Quist, Democrat Clark Johnson and Independence Party candidate Tim Gieseke are running for House seat that was vacated when DFL Rep. Terry Morrow took a job for the Chicago-based Uniform Law Commission. -- Tom Scheck
January tax collections $140 million higher than expected
State budget officials say Minnesota January tax revenues ran $140 million above projections and fiscal year-to-date revenues are $254 million greater than the November forecast.
Gov. Dayton and lawmakers are watching the tax collections carefully since it is one signal that the state's economic outlook is improving as the February forecast looms at the end of the month. Higher than expected tax collections in the current budget cycle will reduce the size of the K12 payment delay used to balance the budget in 2011. -- Tom Scheck(0 Comments)
On Monday, I took a look at the geography of Minnesota's "fourth bracketeers," the 2 percent of Minnesota's top earners who would be pushed to a higher, fourth tax bracket under Gov. Mark Dayton's tax and budget proposals. Those affected would would have paid an average $7,240 more in taxes in fiscal 2013.
Beyond geography, what else do we know about the folks -- people with taxable income above $250,000 for those married and filing jointly, $200,000 for head of household and $150,000 for a single taxpayer -- who would end up in the fourth bracket?
For obvious reasons, the Revenue Department won't give out data that might identify specific filers. But along with the geography, the department did provide information offering a glimpse, at least, of who will bear some of the burden of the fourth bracket should it become law.
Married couples. Of the 53,600 Minnesota resident filers who would pay more tax under the proposal, 40,000, about 80 percent, would be married filers.
Singles would pay $61 million of the $388 million in tax paid by resident filers. (Another $44 million would come from 14,600 part-time residents.)
Business owners One of the arguments against the fourth bracket is that many of the folks who'd be snagged are small businesspeople who'll be hit by a big new tax bill that will compel them to pull back on their businesses and cut back jobs or expansion plans.
Turns out that many people with business income would feel something, although it's not clear how much they'd be nicked.
While Dayton has argued that only the top 2 percent of Minnesotans would pay more under his plan, the Revenue Department estimates that, "6 percent of all of the Minnesota residents who report at least one dollar of positive income from a partnership, S-corp, or sole proprietor would have income high enough to pay tax on any of their income at the fourth tier rate."
Those numbers, though, come with a major caveat: Only 12,700 reported that at least 20 percent of their income was business income of these types.
That works out to around one half of one percent of the 2,439,867 full time Minnesota tax returns filed in 2010.
If anyone has any other numbers to examine on this, send them to me and we'll keep the conversation going. Otherwise, it doesn't look like the fourth bracket would have a broad impact on the state's small business owners.
Where does the Fourth Bracket live? Mouse over the dots on the map to see county-by-county counts.
Some state lawmakers from both parties say they hope to raise the limit on the amount of money a candidate for state office can raise and spend.
Gov. Dayton earlier this month urged lawmakers to raise the contribution limit. He made the comments on the day his campaign finance report showed him with $94,000 in the bank at the end of 2012.
He isn't alone.
The chairs of the House and Senate Election Committees both say they want to increase the limits. The top Republican on the House Elections Committee also says he's likely to back the plan as well.
The reason is simple. Political candidates feel like they're being dwarfed by spending from outside interest groups. Candidates for statewide office can raise $500 in the years they're not on the ballot. They can raise $2,000 in election years. Legislative candidates can raise $100 in non-election years and $500 in the years that they're on the ballot.
Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, said those limits are too low.
"We should increase both the contribution and the spending limits so that we can better equalize the size of megaphones and those who are trying to help or hurt them in elections," Simon said. "The outside interests have a huge megaphone now as compared to the actual candidates running for office."
Simon, who chairs the House Elections Committee, noted that outside interest groups can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on any race.
He is holding a hearing today on a proposal by the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board that calls for hiking the contribution and spending limits. Update: The committee held a hearing on a different Campaign Finance Board proposal.
Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine, the top Republican on the House Elections Committee, also says it's likely he'll support some sort of increase. Sanders said there hasn't been an agreement between committee members as to what the new limits should be. He said, however, that increasing the limits will make races more competitive.
"It always struck me as incumbent protection," Sanders said, referring to the low contribution limits.
Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, also wants to hike the limits. Sieben, who chairs the Senate Elections Committee, said she's heard from a bipartisan group of lawmakers who expressed concern about the level of outside spending on legislative races in 2012. GOP Senate Minority Leader David Hann said his caucus hasn't discussed the idea but said he thinks there is support for it.
A proposal to increase political contributions will likely be included in a broader elections bill. Gov. Dayton has said he won't support any elections bill unless it has broad, bipartisan support.(1 Comments)
A group of lawmakers is proposing a bill that would allow cities to use cameras to catch drivers who run red lights. The bill, which was introduced yesterday in the House and Senate, would also allow law enforcement personnel to use cameras to catch people who are speeding.
In 2007 the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that red light cameras are unconstitutional because the tickets were linked to a driver's license, not to the motorist who committed the violation. Minneapolis city officials were forced to refund millions of dollars after the court ruled the law unconstitutional.
Supporters of the new bill say they think technology will address those concerns because the cameras will capture pictures of both the license plate and the motorist.
"It's very controversial, but we just don't want to give up on it," said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, the chief author of the bill in the House.
Hausman said she's pushing the legislation because she wants to reduce accidents at dangerous intersections. She said city officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul have not taken a position on the bill but said St. Cloud officials have expressed interest.
"It is a matter with people thinking they can get away with breaking the law," Hausman said. "The problem is people die when that happens. The stakes are high enough for me."
The stakes are also high for opponents of the legislation.
"This technology is wrong. You need to have somebody hand somebody a ticket," said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Samuelson said he has major questions about the proposed legislation. In particular, how would governments enforce the law if the owner of a vehicle isn't the person in the photograph?
Samuelson said the ACLU intends to lobby against the legislation and is prepared to go further if it's enacted into law.
"We would oppose this by any means necessary, but we would rather not undergo the cost of a lawsuit and have everyone else, government wise, pay for the costs of a lawsuit. We think this should just go away," he said.
Supporters of the bill say they think they'll be able to address the constitutional issues involving the bill as it goes through the committee process. The bill has been referred to the House Transportation Policy Committee.