Daily Digest: Tax conformity gets pricey

Good morning, and happy Thursday. I hope things are going well. Here’s the Digest.

1. The state revenue department has put some numbers on what it would cost for Minnesota to comply with the new federal tax overhaul. If Minnesota simply adopts the same changes to the state tax code that Congress passed, state government would collect an additional $813 million next fiscal year, and $1.49 billion during the two years after that, according to the department. Not to worry, said Senate Taxes Chairman Roger Chamberlain, R-Blaine. “One thing is for sure: We are not going to increase taxes in the state of Minnesota,” he said. But Minnesota lawmakers meeting at their annual session in February have work to do if they want to prevent a tax increase. (Star Tribune)

2. Lawmakers expect to spend much of the upcoming session working on taxes. Tax conformity is typically noncontroversial and bipartisan, said Mark Haveman, executive director of the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence. But Haveman said this time legislative tax committees face a once-in-a-generation challenge. “There are so many things going on, so many issues to think about, so many taxpayer interests that are going to be in play,” he said. “Sorting all that out is going to take a lot of time and mental energy on the part of policymakers.” (MPR News)

3. Members of the Minnesota House received more than $2 million in per diem and expense payments this year, despite state lawmakers getting a $14,000 raise last year. “Per diem” payments are for daily expenses that lawmakers receive on top of their salaries. In 2017, those expenses added up to millions of dollars. State lawmakers got their first pay hike in years, courtesy of Minnesota voters. The salary for the state’s part-time lawmakers rose sharply — from $31,141 a year, to $45,000. But that does not include money they also receive for their daily expenses. House members receive $66 dollars a day for expenses, on top of their salaries. That’s seven days a week during the legislative session, no receipts required. In 2017, Representatives got an average of $8,812 in per diem, bringing total pay to almost $53,812. State Senators get even more in expense payments: $86 per day. They collected an average of nearly $6,861 extra cash in per diem payments, bringing their total, part-time pay to $51,861 a year. (WCCO TV)

4. Behind the scenes, there’s a major campaign going on to be the next Minnesota attorney general. Yet because there are so many other high-profile races on the ballot this fall — including two U.S. Senate seats and an open race for governor — it hasn’t gotten much attention so far. Another reason: Current DFL Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson hasn’t announced her plans yet, though she is widely rumored to be leaving the office to run for governor. If that happens, the race could dramatically change the shape and priorities of the office. (MinnPost)

5. Every five years Congress goes through a massive legislative exercise, crafting a wide-ranging farm bill that now includes about a half-trillion dollars in spending. And every five years, American Indian leaders say they have largely been left on the sidelines. “Indian tribes have been either ignored or overlooked or been the victim of policy changes since we can remember, that’s just a fact of life,” said Keith Anderson, vice chair of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which is leading an effort to exert more influence by tribes in negotiations that are getting underway for a new farm bill. Anderson said as his wealthy tribe provided grants to other Indian nations for infrastructure and healthy food initiatives, leaders realized there was no focused lobbying effort across Indian Country. More than 30 tribes across the country are part of the new Native Farm Bill Coalition. Partners include the National Congress of American Indians, the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative and the Intertribal Agriculture Council. (MPR News)

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