Minn. lawmakers rally behind bill responding to 2017 hurricanes

A bill providing Minnesota tax incentives for people affected by or helping aid in recovery from three 2017 hurricanes has received a positive reception from state lawmakers.

On Wednesday, the Senate Taxes Committee kept the bill alive for possible inclusion in the session’s bigger tax package. The bill’s cosponsors include both Republican and Democratic caucus leaders.

State Sen. Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, is the bill’s chief sponsor. She told of her struggles reaching family in Puerto Rico when it was devastated by Hurricane Maria six months ago. She said the island is still suffering from the aftermath.

“It means a lot personally but it means a lot in terms of the statement that we’d be making as Minnesotans that we care about our fellow Americans,” Franzen said.

She added, “This is a nonpartisan issue where we can come together and say we care about U.S. citizens and Americans no matter where they live.”

Franzen said 100 Puerto Rican families are known to have relocated to Minnesota since the storm.

The bill would allow them to draw up to $100,000 from retirement savings without normal tax penalties to respond to severe damage; they would have to repay the account or spread the tax impact over a few years. Filers could claim deductions for casualty losses sooner and even if they don’t itemize. The bill also would affect how last year’s charitable deductions are treated for tax purposes.

The measures match changes made at the federal level.

Aside from Hurricane Maria, the legislation also encompasses fallout from Harvey and Irma.