poligraph-accurateIn their quest to make Minnesota a more attractive place to retire, a group of Republican state senators drafted a bill that would eliminate taxes on Social Security.

To make their case, bill sponsor Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, said most states don’t tax the elderly or their benefits.

“Thirty-eight states don’t tax us at all. Twenty-nine states of those states have by purpose eliminated the Social Security tax… Seven states, including Minnesota, do tax Social Security.”

As it turns out, Minnesota is an outlier.

  1. Listen Poligraph: January 23

The Evidence

Depending on your income, Social Security benefits are taxed at the federal level. For couples making less than $32,000 in adjusted gross income a year, all benefits are exempt from the income tax.

After that, couples may pay taxes on up to 85 percent of their Social Security benefits depending on their annual income.

There’s a lot of variation in how states tax Social Security benefits, with some only taxing a portion and others exempting them all together.

Senjem is correct that 38 states either have no income tax or don’t tax Social Security benefits.

According to the Minnesota House Research team, Minnesota is among seven states that tax Social Security benefits exactly like the federal government. Montana taxes benefits, too, but uses different income levels to determine how much should be taxed.

As a result, Kiplinger Magazine recently Minnesota named one of the worst states for retirees when it comes to taxes.

The Verdict

Senjem’s claim is accurate.

Gov. Mark Dayton talks to reporters about his budget plan after a speech to the Children & Youth Issues Briefing. Tim Pugmire MPR/News

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said today that he wants to spend more than half of the state’s projected $1 billion budget surplus on state services for children, youth and families.

Dayton is set to announce his two-year budget proposal on Tuesday. It will include a plan he outlined earlier in the week to spend nearly $100 million on child care and dependent tax credits.

During a speech to the Children and Youth Briefing event in St. Paul, Dayton said he’s already hearing complaints about his proposals. He cautioned the large group of advocates not to fight among themselves for the limited money.

“Most of you believe passionately that your approach is better than others, the best of all,” Dayton said. “But if it gets into the kind of fierce infighting that prevailed a couple years ago, in terms of allocation of funds, I think you’re going to do harm to yourselves and you’re going to do harm to the people you’re serving.”

Dayton said his proposal will direct $372 million to children through education programs. He said $154 million will go to human services programs, with half directed to children and families and the other half to the elderly and disabled.

After the speech, Dayton gave reporters a few more specifics. He said his budget proposal will also direct money to early childhood education scholarships, pre-kindergarten programs and an expansion of school breakfast programs.

After enacting statewide, all-day kindergarten two years ago, Dayton said he wants to continue building on efforts to close the racial and economic achievement gaps in schools.

“They’re solutions, but they’re not salvations, because there’s just so much else going on in these children’s lives and these families’ lives that are detrimental to their health and their growth that we really need to take a broader, more comprehensive view.”


Dayton’s press secretary, Matt Swenson, sent out a correction on the governor’s numbers. He said spending for human services will be $160 million, including $44 million for children. The revised breakdown is $372 million for children through education, $44 million for children through human services and $100 million for child care tax credits. That means $516 million of the surplus is directed to children.

Good morning!

In Minnesota

Minnesota lawmakers have begun their recurring push to allow liquor stores to open on Sundays. (MPR News)

Minnesota lawmakers are restarting a two-year-long push to set rules for how law enforcement agencies use automated license plate readers. (AP via Pioneer Press)

There will be no delay in the remodeling of the state Capitol after the House, Senate and governor announced an agreement on how to allocate space in the building. (MPR News)

A state-led effort to fix a deteriorating Native American school could undermine efforts by federal lawmakers to secure more federal funding. (Star Tribune)

More than 1,000 anti-abortion demonstrators gathered at the state Capitol to demand an end to government-funded abortions. (MPR News)

National Politics

Minnesota Congressman John Kline is a central player in the Republican push to replace the No Child Left Behind law this year. (MPR News)

The largest gathering of potential Republican presidential candidates so far will descend on Iowa on Saturday to test their messages at a forum shaping up as the informal starting gun for the 2016 campaign. (New York Times)

The collapse of an abortion bill in the U.S. House shows that Speaker John Boehner has a new balancing act: Handling the moderate backbencher resurgence. (Politico)

The Senate is about to reach a milestone: By the end of this week, it will have held more amendment votes than it did in all of 2014. (Politico)