Daily Digest: Tax day tactics

Good morning. Now that you’ve got your taxes filed, your Tuesday Digest can catch you up on how politicians used tax day to score points with voters.

1. Trump touts tax cut during Minnesota visit. President Trump played up the benefits of his tax cuts on Monday’s tax filing day in a state where he’s aiming to turn a narrow defeat in the 2016 presidential race into a victory in his re-election bid next year. “We promised these tax cuts would be rocket fuel for the American economy and we were absolutely right,” Trump told an audience at a trucking company where a red, white and blue banner exclaimed: “USA open for business.” “You’re got a very prosperous America, with low unemployment,” the president said at Nuss Truck and Equipment. “I would say Americans approve of a prosperous economy” that has been rebuilt by Trump’s policies. The $1.5 trillion, 10-year package of tax cuts Trump signed into law in 2017 helped accelerate economic growth in 2018 to a rate of 3 percent, based on the administration’s preferred measure of comparing the fourth quarter of 2018 to the same period in 2017. Trump said the tax cuts have put more money in Minnesotans’ pockets. (MPR News)

2. Walz and Klobuchar release taxes. On the day President Donald Trump is visiting Minnesota — tax filing deadline day — Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar are releasing their personal income taxes and calling on Trump to do the same. Trump is the first president in decades to not release his tax returns, although he has said at various times that he would. issue has become increasingly political as Democrats look to probe his dealings for potential impropriety, or to score political points. In October, a New York Times investigation found that for years Trump engaged in schemes designed to avoid taxes — some of which might have been illegal — as he became wealthy from his father’s real estate empire. Walz and Klobuchar, who is running for president in 2020, are both Democrats; Trump is a Republican. Both Walz and Klobuchar issued statements calling on Trump to release his returns in the name of “transparency.” (Pioneer Press)

3. Appeals court orders release of voter data; appeal likely. The Minnesota Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court order for Secretary of State Steve Simon to turn over information on voters he has refused to give to a group that insists it may show evidence of voter fraud. Simon has insisted that the data Andrew Cilek and the Minnesota Voter Alliance want is beyond that which is considered public information. Currently, names, phone numbers, and voter history are among those items available to the public. But Cilek wants all the voter data, including that not normally available to the public. But the Court of Appeals on Monday said it’s public data unless specifically withheld by statute — specific date of birth, Social Security number, driver’s license number, for example. Simon says the case will likely go to the Minnesota Supreme Court. (NewsCut)

4. Could executive order aimed at pipeline projects impact Minnesota? Speaking to the International Union of Operating Engineers in Crosby, Texas last week, President Donald Trump announced a pair of executive orders meant to expedite embattled pipeline projects. “Nobody in the world can do what you folks do, and we’re going to make it easier for you,” Trump said. He added later, “My action today will cut through destructive permitting delays and denials.” One executive order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to reign state regulators in from denying Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certifications, a move used by some states to block controversial projects. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is responsible for reviewing 401 certification, and it granted PolyMet’s contentious copper-nickel mine 401 certification late last year. Meanwhile, the agency is still reviewing the 401 certification application for Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline, but a final certification decision is expected by late October. (Duluth News Tribune)

5. The billion dollar gap on education spending. It takes up nearly half the state’s general fund budget and is typically one of the last things lawmakers agree on before wrapping up their work at the Legislature. Education spending — on public schools from preschool to postsecondary — accounts for $22 billion of the state’s current two-year, $45.5 billion budget. Minnesota school districts, colleges and universities educate more than 1 million students each year. In a state with one of the nation’s most persistent academic achievement gaps for students of color, state lawmakers generally agree that improving public schools is key to Minnesota’s future success and economic prosperity. The scene at Stillwater High School last week was a familiar one: a bipartisan group of lawmakers touring the school and visiting classrooms to highlight unique programs and hear directly from students and teachers about the best ways to improve schools. “We are in agreement on the outcomes,” Gov. Tim Walz said. “How we get there is a fair and debatable part of our process.” Nearly every year there are big differences between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to how much new taxpayer money should be dedicated to education. This is year is no different. That gap is almost a billion dollars. (Pioneer Press)

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