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Dayton urges quick action on tax cuts; Senate prefers own pace

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Governor Mark Dayton said he wanted those big, surplus-sparked tax cuts to be implemented in time for Minnesotans to apply them to their upcoming taxes. The deadline, he said is Wednesday, March 19.

The Senate DFLers don't seem too concerned about that timetable, the Star Tribune reports.

The paper says the chamber's Democrats want to use next week to parse through the $500 million bill – making additions and tweaking parts of the proposal that the House passed nearly unanimously, 126-2, earlier this month. The marked-up, altered bill would then have to go back to the House, where representatives could simply approve the changes and pass it again, or give it to a conference committee for additional tweaks.

“As the time goes on," Dayton said, according to the paper, "the consequences become more severe.”

At risk is $57 million in tax savings aimed at low- and middle-income Minnesotans. If the cuts aren't approved and on his desk by Wednesday, those families lose out for this year, the governor said.

But Senate Democrats tell the Pioneer Press they want to be cautious, and ensure cuts now don't cost us down the road.

"We are being very careful to make sure that what we do is done right," Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, told the paper.

Said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook: Senators are doing their "due diligence" to make sure tax cuts won't create budget shortfalls down the road.

MinnPost says there are also business tax cuts on the line, including a warehouse tax set to take effect April 1 that Dayton and House Democrats want to get repealed. But Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, reiterated to MinnPost they'll work at their own pace.

“Our priority is to get the work done as soon as we can,” he said, “but move at a pace that makes senators feel comfortable.”

The Star Tribune says most DFL Senators simply don't see the urgency: They say many Minnesotans have already filed their individual tax returns anyway, about 1.2 million in fact (44 percent of all filers).

You can see details of Dayton's proposal (the one the House passed) here. Much of it ($301 million) comes from making the state's tax code for middle-class Minnesotans more closely match the federal standards. Included in that is relief for married couples, the Working Family Tax Credit, student loan interest, and more. Three business-to-business taxes which were passed last year (including the warehouse one) would save $232 million if repealed, as proposed in the bill.

Dayton says the total tax cuts come out to $616 million. His proposal came after a reported projected budget surplus of $1.2 billion. He also wants to stash away $455 million of that by putting it into the state's reserves – the first increase to the rainy-day fund since 2001. In his addendum – essentially his wishlist for how to use the money – Dayton also set aside $3.5 million to guarantee students a hot lunch at school, after reports of schools denying meals if a child had a negative account balance. The House passed that measure too.

If you haven't filed taxes yet, the deadline for individual returns is April 15. The IRS has some options for filing for free.

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