Minnesota Senate Republicans are proposing a reduction in the lowest state income tax bracket, from its current rate of 5.35 percent to 5 percent by tax year 2018.

The first bracket covered income up to $37,110 for married joint filers in tax year 2017.

Details of the Senate tax bill released Wednesday show an initial rate reduction to 5.15 percent in tax year 2017 before the full reduction kicks in the following year. The cut would cost $393 million for the next two-year budget cycle, and $402 million for the following biennium.

In presenting the broader bill, Senate Taxes Committee Chair Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said it aims to bring some tax relief to all Minnesotans.

“We made an attempt within the budget limits that we have to have a simpler, more predictable, fair and sustainable – at least go down the path in that direction — tax system in all areas,” Chamberlain said. “We can’t achieve everything in one year, obviously. But that has been our goal.”

The Senate bill, which totals $900 million in tax cuts, also reduces the income tax on Social Security and provides property tax breaks for businesses and farmers.

The bill eliminates automatic increases in the statewide business property tax rate and exempts the first $100,000 of property value. Those changes would have an initial two-year cost of $95.6 million. But the total jumps to $194.6 million in the following biennium.

There are tax credits for college graduates paying off students loans and for donations to entities that provide education scholarships.

Chamberlain’s committee will hear testimony on the bill Thursday.

House Republicans will put their $1.35 billion tax cut bill to a vote Thursday.

Both GOP proposals far exceed the $300 million in tax cuts that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton proposed.

Good morning, and happy Wednesday. Here’s the Digest.

1. Minnesota is set to meet its carbon emissions targets under the Clean Power Plan even if the rule goes away under executive action signed Tuesday by President Trump, state officials said. The federal regulations curbing carbon emissions from existing power plants directed Minnesota to reduce those emissions by about 40 percent by 2030. Wind and solar energy are getting cheaper, and there’s excitement over the possibility of batteries to store renewable energy. And corporations, local governments and some state governments are embracing clean energy both for economic reasons and because it’s better for the environment. (MPR News)

2. Gov. Mark Dayton is pushing back against Republican lawmakers who are unwilling to fund his proposed $175 million expansion of voluntary pre-kindergarten. There are currently 3,300 four-year-olds participating in 74 school districts. Dayton’s proposal would increase participation to more than 17,000 students in 260 school districts. Dayton wants a balanced approach that also includes early learning scholarships, quality child care and school-readiness programs. Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, who chairs the House education committee, said she prefers a more targeted approach that directs funding to the children who need it most. She favors early learning scholarships and school-readiness programs, which, unlike pre-K, do not require licensed teachers. (MPR News)

3. A batch of bills at the Minnesota Legislature geared toward cracking down on protesters have boiled down to one — a proposed rule to heighten criminal penalties against those that block “transit.” The new language would make it illegal to interfere with “transit” (not just an operator), and criminalizes “restricting access to a transit vehicle.” The penalty for doing so in a nonviolent way — such as linking arms together in a peaceful protest — would be increased to up to a year in jail. (Pioneer Press)

4. One of three finalists for St. Paul school superintendent, Orlando Ramos, withdrew Tuesday afternoon. “While his withdrawal is disappointing, we are very confident that we have two strong candidates to be the next superintendent,” said Board Chairman Jon Schumacher. “The Board respects Mr. Ramos’ decision and wishes him well.” Ramos withdrew hours after he acknowledged he’d had a personal bankruptcy in recent years that had not been disclosed to the school board. (Star Tribune)

5. An effort by the Dayton administration to protect pollinators is running into opposition at the Legislature and key provisions appear to be dead for the session. Republican lawmakers leading the fight say they’re protecting agriculture from harmful pesticide regulation. “Farmers are concerned about increased regulation. No other state has taken steps like this,” says Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, who chairs the House Agriculture Policy committee. Last year the governor and state Department of Agriculture officials proposed a pollinator protection initiative they said would make Minnesota a national leader in protecting bees and butterflies. (MPR News)

 

The Minnesota House could soon vote on a bill to expand justifiable use of deadly force by firearms owners who feel under threat, after a committee advanced the bill Tuesday.

What’s commonly called “Stand Your Ground” legislation cleared the House Public Safety Committee on a 9-6 vote. All Republicans were in favor but one, Rep. Keith Franke of St. Paul Park; the five DFLers present were all opposed. Because the bill missed committee deadlines, it will likely be detoured to a Rules panel before being scheduled for a final vote.

Before the vote, Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, reminded Committee Chair Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, that Gov. Mark Dayton blocked a previous effort in 2012.

“The question is, what is different in this bill compared to when the governor vetoed it last time that causes you to believe there would be any different outcome?” Hilstrom asked.

Cornish replied: “I don’t believe anything.”

Cornish said Dayton often threatens vetoes. The DFL governor’s veto letter from the prior attempt is here.

The bill provides immunity from prosecution to people who meet force with force. It makes it a justifiable use of deadly force to shoot an intruder or counter other imminent threats. The protection applies to encounters in dwellings or vehicles.

“The individual may meet force with superior force when the individual’s objective is defensive; the individual is not required to retreat; and the individual may continue defensive actions against an assailant until the danger has ended,” reads one section.

The immunity wouldn’t apply if someone uses force against known law enforcement officers doing their jobs.

The Republican-led Senate hasn’t held a hearing on companion legislation.