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In Minnesota

Minnesota House Republicans went to work on their pledge to give back to taxpayers a majority of the state’s nearly $1.9 billion budget surplus. (MPR News)

MinnPost explains how Minnesota’s budget process works. (MinnPost)

The owner of Minnesota’s nuclear power plants has no plans to build a new one, but wants flexibility to do it if needed. (Pioneer Press)

A Republican Minnesota legislator wants Wisconsin business owners who are opposed to the Badger State Legislature’s likely passage of what’s known as “right-to-work” legislation to move to Minnesota. (MPR News)

National Politics

Congress ended a showdown linking Homeland Security Department spending and immigration policy as House Speaker John Boehner defied hard-line Republicans and let the chamber vote to fund the agency through September. All eight Minnesota House members voted for the bill. (Bloomberg News)

Boehner’s move was unpopular with conservatives (most of the votes were supplied by Democrats). An outside spending group close to the Speaker that was founded and is chaired by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman has been running ads defending Boehner from some of toughest critics. (Huffington Post)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was met with rounds of applause and repeated standing ovations Tuesday while addressing a joint meeting of Congress but make no mistake: Democrats were by no means joining in the acclaim. (Washington Post)

Republicans are very excited about the revelations that Hillary Clinton relied on a personal email account for her correspondence as Secretary of State. (Politico)

A Justice Department review has found that Missouri’s troubled Ferguson Police Department engaged in a broad pattern of racially biased enforcement that permeated the city’s justice system, including the use of unreasonable force against African American suspects. (USA Today)

The New York Times profiles Stephanie Schriock, the head of the influential Democratic group, Emily’s List, who was Al Franken’s 2008 campaign manager. (New York Times)


Rep. Pat Garofalo, R- Farmington Photo | Minnesota House

A Republican Minnesota legislator wants Wisconsin business owners who are opposed to the Badger State Legislature’s likely passage of what’s known as “right-to-work” legislation to move to Minnesota.

Wisconsin Republicans  appear poised to pass the bill to make union dues optional,  which critics say would undermine union power in negotiating higher pay for workers.

In a letter to two Wisconsin construction businesses that hire union members, Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, sent a letter to the firms offering assistance in relocating their businesses to Minnesota.

He said the government shouldn’t get involved in how private companies do their work.

“In Wisconsin, you have private sector business owners who are telling the government this is going to hurt their businesses model,” Garofalo said. “Those are the businesses we want in Minnesota.”

“Many Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature understand that ‘Right to Work’ significantly interferes with your right to set the terms and conditions of employment in your workplace,” Garofalo’s letter reads.

It wasn’t that long ago that Minnesota’s Republican-controlled Legislature was considering its own right-to-work legislation.

But Garofalo said it was never a serious effort, even though he’s a vocal opponent of teachers unions.

“The Minnesota history proves it – we didn’t do Right-to-Work because there’s lots of Republicans in Minnesota against it,” he said.

Garofalo said he’s spoken with two employers in Wisconsin who told him they are very concerned with where the Wisconsin Legislature is headed on right-to-work and that they want to move their businesses to Minnesota. Garofalo wouldn’t say which companies.

Meanwhile, Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who earned kudos and criticism for dismantling public sector unions when he first took office, has signaled support for the right-to-work legislation, despite dodging the topic during the 2014 campaign.

Now, Walker is eyeing a White House bid in 2016.

Here’s Garofalo’s letter:

  1. Listen Story audio

Minnesota House Republicans went to work today on their pledge to give back to taxpayers a majority of the state’s nearly $1.9 billion budget surplus.

Members of the House tax committee heard several GOP-backed bills to exempt Social Security income from state taxes.

There are five similar House bills that would phase out the taxes senior citizens pay on their Social Security income.

Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater, said her bill would help keep retirees from leaving Minnesota.

“These same people who’ve lived here all their lives, raised families, been productive and valuable members of their communities are now having to choose to leave neighbors, friends, children and grandchildren because of the taxes they’re being asked to pay,” Lohmer said. “Whether we like it or not, it’s happening. Personally, our family has a half a dozen friends who have already left.”

Lohmer’s bill would reduce the Social Security tax by 10 percent each year until the full exemption is reached.

Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, is proposing a faster, five-year phase out.

“When you’re sitting on a fixed income, and a piece of it is Social Security, you’ve got nowhere to go except to start pulling things out of your budget,” Lueck said. “So, this is an opportunity to very rapidly, very simply put some dollars back in our senior citizens’ pockets.”

Social Security benefits are already exempt from state and federal taxes if an individual’s annual income is under $25,000. The threshold is $32,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Rep. Dianne Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, said a majority of Minnesota senior citizens aren’t being taxed.

“This bill wouldn’t help them. It would help the higher income seniors that exceed that threshold and have above average earnings for a retiree,” she said.

The proposed reduction could affect an estimated 381,000 tax returns in 2016. The cost to the state in lost revenue would grow each year of the phase-in.

Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said she’s open to considering the tax break. But she cautioned that its price tag will eventually reach $500 million per year.

“I think that’s okay if people want to figure out how they’re going to permanently cut state spending to come up with that money,” Lenczewski said.

The bills were laid over for possible inclusion in the House omnibus tax bill.

The committee also advanced a measure to exempt military retirement pay from Minnesota’s income tax. The proposed tax break would be phased in over five years.

Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, said his bill would generate revenue from veterans retiring in Minnesota.

“They’ll be maybe starting businesses,” Dettmer said. “They’ll hire other people. They’re going to buy homes. They’ll buy vehicles.”

House Republicans are also pushing a package of tax breaks for businesses, which they included in their first bill introduced this session.