1999 Legislative session to be a budget year

This article submitted by Aaron Ziemer on 1/5/99.

With the billion dollar budget surplus, much of the 1999 legislative session will be deciding how to give the people of Minnesota a tax rebate.

The majority of the tax cuts will be taking place for the middle class. Some ideas for the tax breaks include: the income tax, property tax, license tab tax, and even the sales tax.

Speaker of the House, Steve Sviggum, in an interview at the Paynesville Press, said that the Legislature needs to reduce the income tax rates for the lower and middle income Minnesotans.

ďThis cut needs to be permanent,Ē added Sviggum.

ďThe target of the tax breaks will be the middle class,Ē said Representative Doug Stang.

Another area representative, Al Juhnke, said he would favor a property tax break, more than an income tax break.

The state is figured to have about a one billion dollar surplus available by June of í99, and another 1.8 billion dollars over the next couple of years.

Some of the other areas that could be reduced due to the large tax surplus would be the removal or reduction of the marriage penalty.

The other kind of tax that Sviggum talked about trying to phase out is the ďsick tax.Ē This is a two percent tax when people come in for any kind of medical work. This tax is about five years old, Sviggum said it would probably be a gradual phase out.

Reducing the sales tax has been popular. When it was first raised to six and half percent, it was raised as a temporary measure. Now, the state government is out of debt, so the tax could be reduced back to six percent.

The other big tax cut that has gathered a lot of support is the automobile license tax cut. This bill will probably be authored by Paynesville Senator Michelle Fischbach.

In a recent news release Fischbach said, ďAs we enter the 1999 legislative session with our 13th projected budget surplus in six years, we must find ways to permanently reduce the tax burden on Minnesotans.Ē

According to the release, Fischbachís plan would include paying a flat $35 fee annually to license vehicles. Some of the money collected would be re-dedicated to the Highway Fund.

Also, some relief could be given to help some of the stateís farmers who are experiencing one of the worst crises in history.

This session is also being closely watched for another reason. There is no real majority in the state government. The Republicans have control of the House of Representatives, the Democrats have control of the Senate, and Jesse Ventura of the Reform Party is the governor.

None of the legislators really know for sure how this is going to turn out, whether anything will be able to get done or not, but all of them say there could be some great things coming out of this legislative session, especially if they compromise and work together.

ďThis will be a fun year to sit back and watch,Ē Juhnke said. ďIt will be interesting to see how things work out.Ē

Some of the other major issues the legislature needs to talk about, especially for this area, are the Highway 23 expansion project, snowmobile stud ban, and education changes for rural Minnesota. Two more issues, especially statewide, would be a possible change toward a unicameral Legislature, and the stadium issue, which still isnít dead.

There has been some talk about switching the state government to a unicameral system, that would basically eliminate the Senate, and would go with one house made up of representatives based on population, with a couple of extra seats. This would be a constitutional amendment that would require the people of Minnesota to vote on it.

Stang says this would save money, but could cause some problems because of the shifting of population into the metropolitan area. It could give the urban areas too much power, and not enough for rural Minnesota.

Some of the things the Legislature is looking into for rural education is closing the gap between the amount of money urban and rural schools get per student.

The gap would not be made up at once, but would be gradually closed each year to attempt to even the amount of money received over time.

Another thing the Legislature will be looking at will be to try to enhance the ability of teachers and administrators to deal with discipline problems.

Juhnke and Stang both said that something needs to be done about the farm crisis. They figured this would be one of the most important issues of the year.

Fischbach talked about getting the snowmobile stud ban law, that was enacted last year, removed.

Govenor Jesse Ventura has generated a new interest in politics statewide. He hasnít really let it be known what he would like to see accomplished while he is in office, so nobody really knows for sure.

Stang also felt the Legislature may have some more power this year, becaue of Govenor Venturaís lack of agenda. Stang thinks that Ventura may let the Legislature set the agenda.

All of these and many other issues will have to be dealt with this session, so it could be a very busy session for many legislators.

Keep abreast of happenings in the legislative session by reading our Legislative Update or write a message to your legislator.

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