Good morning, and happy Wednesday. We’re just one day out from the start of the State Fair. Here’s the Digest.

1. Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer says he wants to simplify the tax code to the point where Americans fill out their returns on post cards. Emmer shared his vision for tax changes Tuesday night in Ramsey. After hitting a roadblock in their effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Trump and Congressional Republicans are preparing to take on a long-promised overhaul of the federal tax code. Trump has said he’ll release a proposal soon that provides a massive tax cut to businesses and individuals. Emmer said it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. (MPR News)

2. The race for governor is already well underway, even if the final field isn’t set yet and the general election is more than a year away. Candidates are traveling the state this summer to make their pitches to voters, trying to reach places where they are less well-known. They’re also starting to raise money, which they will need to combat the millions spent by outside spending groups not officially affiliated with any candidates. Others are fine-tuning their campaign pitch, using this time to perfect their message and separate themselves from a growing field of candidates. (MinnPost)

3. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges must either produce a full 2018 budget by Friday or go to court to explain why it isn’t ready, a Hennepin County judge has ruled. A member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation filed a complaint in Hennepin County Court late last week asking a judge to force Hodges to file the full budget “immediately,” arguing the mayor’s delayed release of her spending plan is a violation of the city charter. The city attorney’s office, which said last week “the mayor is in full compliance with the City Charter and will vigorously defend this lawsuit,” will give the judge a written response on Thursday. (Star Tribune)

4. Secretary of State Steve Simon has formally rejected a request by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to turn over personal data on nearly four million registered voters in Minnesota. Simon, a Democrat, says he has serious doubts about the commission’s credibility and trustworthiness. In a letter to the commission, Simon said President Trump’s claim of massive voter fraud is baseless and irresponsible. He added that that commission is not truly bipartisan and that it seems headed toward pre-determined outcomes. (KSTP TV)

5. A woman who declared herself a candidate for the Minneapolis City Council earlier this year was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol for the second time this summer. Tiffini Flynn Forslund, 51, was pulled over early Sunday morning in Mounds View for driving on the shoulder of the roadway with the right turn signal on, according to a complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court. (Pioneer Press)

Congressman Tom Emmer, left, and Mac Zimmerman of Americans for Prosperity talk about proposed changes to the federal tax code. Tim Pugmire | MPR News
  1. Listen Story audio

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer says he wants to simplify the tax code to the point where Americans fill out their returns on post cards.

Emmer shared his vision for tax changes Tuesday night in Ramsey.

After hitting a roadblock in their effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Trump and Congressional Republicans are preparing to take on a long-promised overhaul of the federal tax code.

Trump has said he’ll release a proposal soon that provides a massive tax cut to businesses and individuals.

Emmer said it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“Why, for goodness sake, can’t a Republican Senate and a Republican House pass a tax reform bill with this president? There is no reason that it shouldn’t get done, which is why I believe it’s absolutely going to get done. It’s dependent upon the courage in both of these bodies how far we go.”

Speaking before a small, receptive crowd at a forum sponsored by the Minnesota chapter of the group Americans for Prosperity, Emmer said the key to success on taxes is to avoid repeating some of the recent mistakes made on health care. To that end, he says agreement is needed among the House, Senate and President Trump before moving forward.

Emmer offered some specifics of what he’d like to see, including a reduction in the number of tax brackets from seven to three, a cut in the corporate tax rate and an elimination of the estate tax. He expects a big push to eliminate many deductions and exemptions, although he predicted deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations will remain in place.

One of his top priorities is helping businesses.

“Anything we can do to lighten the load for our small businesses, our entrepreneurs that are just starting out and creating tomorrow’s big business will have a huge impact today and on the future of this state and this country,” Emmer said.

Emmer represents Minnesota’s 6th District, a reliably Republican section of the state. But Minnesota DFL Party chair Ken Martin accused Emmer of embracing an approach to taxes that will favor big money interests rather than his constituents.

“It’s comical that they would call it tax reform because the only people it benefits are big corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent,” Martin said. “In the 6th Congressional District, there are very few people that make enough money who would actually benefit from this tax reform bill.”

Emmer has heard the criticism before. During his remarks, he insisted that a reduction in corporate taxes will benefit all with lower prices. He also predicted the tax cuts will spur economic growth.

Many of the tax goals of Emmer and Congressional Republicans line up closely with those being pushed by Americans For Prosperity, a nonprofit advocacy group financed by brothers Charles and David Koch. The group has been hosting similar tax reform summits across the country during the Congressional recess. But there are differences.

Jason Flohrs, the AFP’s Minnesota director, said the group pressured House GOP leaders to abandon their plan for a “border adjustment tax” on imported goods.

“That’s not on the table anymore, partly due to the action taken by our activists here and across the country. So, we want to keep that pressure on.”

 

State Sen. Dave Osmek, R-Mound, announces his bid for governor with a pledge to fight for Minnesota values. Brian Bakst | MPR News

State Sen. Dave Osmek, a steadfast conservative known for blunt talk, launched a campaign for governor Tuesday with a pledge to fight for “Minnesota values.”

Osmek, of Mound, is the 10th Republican to declare his 2018 candidacy in a field that could get even bigger before voters start to narrow down the choices. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is leaving after two terms, creating a scramble on both sides.

They’ll compete first for the party endorsement at next spring’s state convention, with an August primary race possible to set the stage for November.

“If you want a fighter to fight for your values, I’m your guy. I’m not going to play Minnesota Nice. I’m going to go to bat for those values,” Osmek said, surrounded by his family and supporters.

He describes Minnesota values as hard work over handouts and playing by the rules to get ahead. Osmek promised to scrap the Metropolitan Council and scuttle planned light-rail expansions if elected. He said he would consider eliminating Minnesota’s state-based health insurance exchange.

His populist tone echoed the one that paid off for President Donald Trump’s campaign, although Trump fell short of winning Minnesota.

“I’m not going to be the person the establishment is going to like because I’m going to follow those core values that I was brought up with. Am I appealing to Trump voters? No,” Osmek said. “I’m appealing to every voter in Minnesota.”

Osmek said he’ll seek the GOP endorsement next spring and leave the race if he doesn’t get it.

Away from the Legislature, he’s currently a project manager at insurance giant UnitedHealth Group. He previously served on the Mound city council.

Osmek’s candidacy is the first from a sitting state senator, which is notable given his party’s 34-33 control in that chamber. The departure of any Republican ahead of 2020 would force a special election, giving the DFL a chance to swing the tide. That said, Osmek hails from a reliably conservative district and ran up big numbers in his two victories. Osmek wouldn’t have to give up his seat in the Senate if he’s not elected governor.

He is chairman of the Senate Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee. He gained attention last year for being the sole legislator to vote against an internet privacy measure, which he said hadn’t received proper vetting. It ultimately got shelved in late-session negotiations.

But he’s also been one of the loudest critics of light-rail expansion efforts, a stance that resonates with many in his party.

The burgeoning field of Republicans includes: state Rep. Matt Dean, a former House majority leader; former state GOP chairman Keith Downey; Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman; and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the party’s 2014 nominee. There are five candidates who haven’t held prior office: Chris Chamberlin, Nikolay Bey, Phillip Parrish, Ole Savior and Jeffrey Wharton.

Democrats also have a robust field featuring: St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman; state Rep. Erin Murphy, a former House majority leader; state Rep. Tina Liebling; State Auditor Rebecca Otto; state Rep. Paul Thissen, a former House speaker; and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

There are heavyweights in both parties still considering whether to enter the race.