The pandemic hit the state’s economy, as did orders from the executive branch to force temporary closings or capacity limits, but state economists said the hit wasn’t as bad as they originally expected. And budget projections replaced a projected budget hole of $ 1.3 billion with a surplus of $ 1.6 billion.
The sunnier outlook for the state reignited discussions about how best to use the additional funds. With a March 15 deadline for some business owners to file income tax, business leaders urged lawmakers to waive state income tax so they would not have to pay for the loans they took out in the impression of being exempt.
Legislative leaders also worked privately to compromise a security funding package days before a high-profile murder trial was due to begin in Minneapolis. Despite providing few details, leaders said Thursday March 4th they were confident they could reach an agreement by next week.
And two cannabis-related plans have been pushed forward in both chambers. 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 were working on at the Capitol this week, and what’s on deck for next week.
A deal starts to cheer with the tax break package
Legislature leaders entered into closed discussions this week to reach a compromise that could give tax breaks to business owners who canceled federal loans and Minnesotans who received unemployment insurance benefits last year.
With a March 15 deadline for some business owners to pay state taxes on the paycheck protection program loans, lawmakers said they must file an invoice on the governor’s desk within weeks. And they started drafting a bill they thought could please both Democrats and Republicans.
In a committee hearing on Tuesday, March 2, the Senators amended the bill to include a tax break for Minnesotans who raised an additional $ 600 a week through unemployment insurance. Her proposal would allow individual applicants to deduct up to $ 1,500 in additional unemployment benefits from their taxable income. And joint applicants could forego up to $ 3,000.
Meanwhile, the 100,000+ business owners who used federal loans to keep their employees on payroll during the pandemic would not have to pay state taxes on those loan dollars.
The proposal is due to be put to the vote next week, and the leaders of the tax commissions in both chambers said they were optimistic that a plan could be passed this year.
But an agreement in the shared statehouse could boil down to what makes it into the final bill. Democrats have argued that tax breaks should be tailored to help businesses struggling hardest amid the pandemic and unemployed workers in sectors that are hardest hit, like government hospitality.
Republicans and an independent lawmaker, meanwhile, said the state’s economic recovery will depend on helping businesses weather the economic blow they faced from the pandemic and state efforts to contain it. And they expressed concerns about including too many other measures in the bill that could win support.
SAFE Act funding in sight?
RELATED: Read More About The SAFE Account
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said Thursday the 4th by George Floyd.
“I think we’re pretty close. God willing, we’re going to get it done on Monday, but it’s a law that I think we recognize has places around Minnesota, be it Minneapolis or the north where the pipelines are, where it is a benefit of coordinating for additional police help, “Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said Thursday.
The Senate passed a proposal to build cities like Minneapolis, which in an emergency situation may need additional assistance to withdraw from their local government aid dollars if they cannot return the funds otherwise. And the House of Representatives then embarked on a bipartisan plan to allocate $ 35 million to law enforcement emergencies that could be used to repay police forces deployed to assist others.
Public safety officials said the fund would be helpful in getting more authorities to volunteer to help Minneapolis should violence break out during the process. And if government funds were not used, they could be saved anywhere in Minnesota for possible emergencies.
FOLLOW: The Derek Chauvin Trial will begin on Monday March 8th. Follow our coverage here.
Senate urges expansion of medical cannabis program
A jar of marijuana buds. Shutterstock photo
The Minnesota Senate Finance and Policy Committee on Health and Human Services this week tabled a plan that would allow patients on the state 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 flower that can be smoked. Instead, patients on the program can use oils and other by-products that contain THC, but patients on the state program have said the current restrictions are expensive and limit options for consumers and manufacturers.
The Senate panel passed a bill that would add dried marijuana flowers to the state’s program and expand a COVID-19 era policy that allows roadside medical marijuana product pickups. Minnesotans struggling with opioid addictions could also resort to medical marijuana as a treatment under the plan.
The chair of the committee tried Tuesday to allay concerns about the proposal, noting that the potential expansion of the medical cannabis program was not aimed at signaling support for the legalization of recreational marijuana.
“This is a sincere step in updating our medical cannabis program. It’s not a path to legalization, ”said Senator Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake.
On Wednesday March 3rd, a DFL plan in the House of Representatives cleared the Human Resources and Business Development Committee, this time picking up Republican support.