Minnesota negotiations over tax breaks and security funding for Chauvin trial continue behind closed doors
The pandemic has hit the state’s economy, as have executive orders temporarily imposing closures or capacity limits, but state economists said the blow was not as bad as it had been. initially predicted. And the budget forecast replaced a projected $ 1.3 billion budget hole with a $ 1.6 billion surplus.
The sunnier outlook for the state has reignited discussions on how best to spend the extra funds. With a March 15 deadline for some business owners to file their income taxes, business leaders have urged lawmakers to forgo state income taxes so they don’t have to pay the loans they have taken out on the pretext that they would be exempt.
Legislative leaders also worked privately to compromise on a security funding package days before a high-profile murder trial began in Minneapolis. Although they provided few details, the leaders said on Thursday (March 4) that they hoped to be able to reach a deal by next week.
And two cannabis-related plans have advanced in either room. Senators voted to expand the state’s medical marijuana program to include dried marijuana flowers, while another House committee voted to legalize recreational cannabis.
Here’s a look at what lawmakers have been working on this week on Capitol Hill and what’s planned for next week.
Deal begins to freeze on tax break package
Legislative leaders began closed-door discussions this week in an effort to find a compromise that could secure tax relief for business owners who pulled federal loans and laid-off Minnesotans last year who received benefits unemployment insurance.
With a March 15 deadline for some business owners to pay state taxes on Paycheck Protection Program loans, lawmakers have said they must submit a bill to the governor’s office within weeks that follow. And they began to draft a bill that they believed could satisfy both Democrats and Republicans.
At a committee hearing on Tuesday, March 2, senators amended the bill to include tax relief for Minnesotans who were receiving an additional $ 600 per week through unemployment insurance. Their proposal would allow individual filers to subtract up to $ 1,500 of additional unemployment benefit income from their taxable income. And joint depositors could have up to $ 3,000 forfeited.
Meanwhile, the more than 100,000 business owners who used federal loans to help keep their employees on payroll during the pandemic would not have to pay state taxes on those loan dollars.
The proposal is expected to go to a floor vote next week, and tax committee leaders from both chambers said they were optimistic that a plan could be passed this year.
But a deal in the divided Statehouse could come down to what will make it the final bill. Democrats argued that tax breaks should be tailored to provide support to the most struggling businesses amid the pandemic and to the unemployed in sectors that have been hit hardest, such as hospitality workers in the ‘State.
Republicans and an independent lawmaker, meanwhile, said the state’s economic recovery will depend on helping businesses weather the economic blow they have faced as a result of the pandemic and state efforts. to slow it down. And they have voiced concerns that too many other policies are piling up in the bill that could attract support.
SAFE Act financing on the horizon?
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Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka also said Thursday, March 4 that legislative leaders were still in negotiations over a plan to state funding for security preparations for the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former police officer from Minneapolis charged with second degree murder in the death of George Floyd.
“I think we’re pretty close. God willing, we’ll do it Monday, but it’s a bill that I think we recognize that there are places around Minnesota, whether it’s Minneapolis or the north, where the pipelines are, where there is a coordination advantage for additional police assistance, ”Gazelka, of R-East Gull Lake, said Thursday.
The Senate has passed a proposal that cities, like Minneapolis, may require additional backup in an emergency to withdraw aid dollars from their local government if they cannot repay the funds by other means. . And the House of Representatives passed and then rejected on a bipartisan basis a plan to set aside $ 35 million for police emergencies that could be used to reimburse police services tapped into helping others.
Public safety officials said the fund would be helpful in getting more agencies to volunteer to help Minneapolis with violence surrounding the trial. And if state funds weren’t used, they could be held for possible emergencies anywhere in Minnesota.
FOLLOW: The Derek Chauvin Trial Begins Monday, March 8. Follow our coverage here.
Senate pushes to expand medical cannabis program
A pot of marijuana buds. Shutterstock photo
The Minnesota Senate Finance and Policy Committee on Health and Human Services this week put forward a plan that would allow patients in the state’s medical marijuana program to smoke cannabis as part of their treatment plan.
Minnesota is the only state with a medical marijuana program that prohibits the production or sale of dried marijuana flowers that can be smoked. Instead, patients in the program can use oils and other THC-containing by-products, but patients in the state program have said the current constraints are costly and limit options for consumers and producers.
The Senate panel passed a bill that would expand the state’s program to allow dried marijuana flowers and extend a COVID-19 era policy that allows curbside pickup of medical marijuana products. Minnesotans struggling with opioid addictions could also have access to medical marijuana as a treatment under the plan.
The committee chairperson sought Tuesday to allay concerns about the proposal, noting that the potential expansion of the medical cannabis program was not intended to signal support for the legalization of recreational marijuana.
“This is a sincere step to update our medical cannabis program. It is not a path to legalization,” said Senator Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake.
On Wednesday, March 3, a DFL plan in the House cleared the Workforce and Business Development Committee and this time garnered support from Republicans.