Lawmakers to discuss potential surplus in new session

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The Minnesota legislative session begins Tuesday and will last through May, but that might not be long enough for everything state lawmakers need to go over.

Various topics will be discussed during the session, including the potential budget surplus. More than 1,800 bills remain available to debate from last year and house members, prior to the session, have introduced more than 30 bills, according to the Bemidji Pioneer.

Early on in the session, lawmakers will have to decide what to do with a projected surplus of nearly $1 billion, the Star Tribune reports. The state’s economic forecast will be released Friday, which will detail the surplus.

Many legislators agree some of the money should be returned to taxpayers, but they can’t agree on how much, according to the Star Tribune. If the surplus forecast holds true, Dayton has said he will seek nearly $600 million in tax breaks for Minnesotans and businesses, the Star Tribune reports.

Such tax cuts could include eliminating taxes on business equipment repairs and telecommunications equipment, which took effect in July 2013, and a warehousing services tax, which is scheduled to begin on April 1, according to the Pioneer Press. These changes could save businesses in Minnesota $231 million over the next 16 months, the Pioneer Press reports.

The Star Tribune surveyed 800 adults in Minnesota regarding issues that are expected come up during the legislative session, including what to do with the budget surplus. The poll detailed where the respondents were from, gender, age, income, political party affiliation and if they are registered voters. Sixty percent of people surveyed agreed the money should be returned to taxpayers, while 32 percent believe some of it should be spent on additional state services. Six percent think the money should be split evenly and 2 percent are unsure.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he and his caucus don’t want to take the risk of approving tax cuts that could lead to shortfalls in the budget in the future, according to the Pioneer Press. In the late 1990s and early 2000s state policymakers cut taxes that plunged state deficits for years, so Bakk says he’s reluctant to cut taxes or approve additional spending measures, the Pioneer Press reports.

On top of that, lawmakers are looking to November’s election as this session is setting the stage for the campaign, according to the Star Tribune. Republicans will be fighting to regain control of the house, while democrats will outline how they have made life better for Minnesotans. Democrats have a to-do list of initiatives to please voters while trying to avoid controversies during the session, according to the Star Tribune, while the republicans will highlight what they see as failures on behalf of the democrats.

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