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Legislative Update from Rep. Sondra Erickson

Friday, April 27, 2018

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

On Thursday, the House approved its supplemental education omnibus bill. As chair of the Education Innovation Policy Committee, I worked closely with my colleague, House Education Finance Committee chair, Rep. Jenifer Loon, to assemble this legislation.

This year’s omnibus bill continues our mission of ensuring that every child in Minnesota has access to a world-class education.

This begins with ensuring students learn in a safe and secure environment. That’s why a large component of our bill focuses on school safety. We accomplish this by utilizing a multifaceted approach that gives school districts the flexibility they need to improve schools safety.

Steps include additional school resources officers, school building security upgrades, school-linked mental health programming, physical security audit grants, suicide prevention training for teachers, and school-based threat assessment teams.

In addition to improving school security, our bill includes a number of policy related items that look to strengthen our schools—a number of which I authored.

Here is a brief rundown of some of the other things the bill does:

  • Addresses teacher and school employee misconduct through stricter licensing, background checks and mandatory reporting laws.
  • Creates a special education working group to study the rapid increase of special education costs and spending.
  • Increases school funding transparency in order to ensure funding aimed at lessening the achievement gap is being used for its intended purpose.
  • Requires MDE to create a school report card on their website in order to provide a single place for parents to compare student achievement and academic growth by school site and district.
  • Addresses a dire workforce shortage in skilled trades and manufacturing by starting pilot programs and encouraging school counselors to give skilled trades, manufacturing and military careers the same credence and other careers.

I am proud of this year’s bill and look forward to working with Governor Dayton and the Senate to come to agreement on a final bill that puts the needs of our children first.

House Releases Tax Conformity Plan

Over the weekend, the House released its tax conformity plan. As I’ve detailed in numerous updates, federal tax conformity is likely the biggest issues facing the Legislature this year as a failure to act will result in tremendous difficulties processing taxes next year. Conversely, if we fully conform to federal changes to the tax code without making any changes to Minnesota’s tax code, taxes will go up for countless Minnesotans.

It is a very complicated and unique situation for lawmakers.

The House plan seeks to simplify Minnesota’s tax code to fully benefit from recent federal tax reform and provide additional tax relief to middle-class Minnesotans. In total, 2.1 million Minnesotans would see a reduction in their taxes.

Here are additional details of our plan:

  • Helping middle-class Minnesotans keep more of what they earn by cutting the second tier income tax rate from 7.05% to 6.75% by tax year 2020. This would mark the first income tax rate reduction in Minnesota since 2000.
  • Lowering taxes for people at all income levels by increasing the standard deduction from $13,000 to $14,000.
  • Protecting families by preserving a state personal and dependent exemption of $4,150.
  • Encouraging affordable homeownership by allowing a state-itemized deduction of up to $30,000 in property taxes.
  • Supporting hometown businesses and farmers by reinvesting extra revenue from corporate tax changes into Section 179 conformity and overall rate reductions.

Governor Dayton has also released a plan. Unfortunately, his plan would raise taxes on Minnesotans of all income levels. In fact, his own Department of Revenue released analysis of the governor’s plan that showed households making less than $32,000 would be hit hardest.

He has proposed reinstating more than $1 billion in health care tax increases and repealing tax reductions enacted last session.

Clearly such a proposal has little to no support whatsoever in the House.

Luckily we have time to work out these differences with four weeks still remaining in session, but we are quickly running out of time. Stay tuned on this.

Omnibus Bills with Local Provisions Making Way through the Process

In the Environment and Natural Resources omnibus bill is the following amended language from House File 2732: The commissioner of Natural Resources may invite at least two fish managers as designated by the commissioner to attend the 1837 Ceded Territory Fisheries Technical Committee meetings.

In the Jobs omnibus bill a proposal to provide $500,000 in grants from the Minnesota Investment Fund to Mille Lacs County to provide loans as described in state statute was included. This is for eligible projects located within the municipalities or townships located in the three counties surrounding Lake Mille Lacs (this replaces HF3420 - the Mille Lacs Restoration proposal which would have provided up to $100,000 in grants to affected businesses).

As you may recall in 2016 the Legislature provided $3.5 million for loans and grants to affected businesses and that proposal was extended last session to ensure all applicants received the loan or grant.

In the Property Tax Division report, referred to Taxes and now included in the Taxes Omnibus bill, is language from House File 1268. This includes a total of $1.35 million available to Mille Lacs, Crow Wing and Aitkin counties (in the areas affected by the shutdown of Lake Mille Lacs to walleye fishing in 2015) for property tax abatement for taxes payable in 2019. This was proposed by the Department of Revenue in 2015 during the Mille Lacs working group created by the governor as a way to provide relief to the area as a result of the shutdown.

The 15th annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), is taking place this Saturday, April 28. Learn more and locate a collection site near you on the Minnesota’s Hospitals: Strengthening Healthy Communities website and on the DEA website.

That’s all for this week’s update. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns regarding a matter related to state government. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-6746 or via email at

Have a great weekend,


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