THE MINNESOTA 2015 LEGISLATIVE SESSION HAS CONVENED
THE MINNESOTA 2015
LEGISLATIVE SESSION HAS CONVENED
The new pro-business
House majority is eager to enact several measures to help small business and
aid job creation. Unfortunately, they
only control one-third of Minnesota state government and whatever passes will need
the approval of the Senate followed by the signature of Governor Dayton to be signed into law. Below is an early
look at key small business issues where NFIB/MN intends to support the House
It was recently projected that the state will have a $1
billion budget surplus that is likely to grow once the February forecast is
completed. Small business is certainly
hopeful that this will pave the way for some significant tax relief via one of
the following routes:
Fully conforming Minnesota’s estate tax
exemption to the federal exemption, which will bring us from our current $2
million per person to the federal $5.43 million per person.
Making income tax cuts for small business by
either repealing the new 9.85% individual income tax rate for small businesses
that are organized as flow-through companies, otherwise known as sub s LLCs, or
providing broader relief to flow-through companies by reducing taxable income to
NFIB also supports increased deductibility for section 179 expenditures which would
move Minnesota closer to the Federal law. Although a much smaller federal
conformity bill was recently pushed through in an attempt to aid tax payers
prior to their 2014 filing, legislative leaders in the new House majority
caucus will have to decide what will go into their tax relief package. Look for them to pass their omnibus House tax
bill sometime in late March or April.
The tax bill will be in for a very long conference committee with the
Senate likely tackling the issue throughout the month of May.
GAS TAX BATTLE
Governor Dayton has proposed a dramatic transportation
funding package which would raise gas and sales taxes by $6 billion over the
next decade and the Senate majority caucus has responded with a large funding
proposal that would do just that. The new House majority opposes a gas tax
increase and has countered by proposing the usage of $200 million from the
current budget surplus as well as diverting $205 million from the MnDot budget
for roads and bridges. All totaled, the new House majority is proposing $750
million in new money for roads and bridges over the next the next four years.
This issue will likely be the showdown of the session and
may require a special session since it’s very unlikely that the new House
majority will support a large increase in the gas or sales tax, and is
adamantly opposed to any further expansion of wasteful light rail
NFIB is strongly urging the new majority caucus
to pass legislation repealing the automatic escalator provision that was
enacted in last year’s minimum wage bill.
The worst aspect of last year’s bill was the escalator which, beginning
in 2018, ties a minimum wage increase to inflation.
The restaurant association continues to advocate
an approach to a lower server’s wage that unfortunately fell one vote short
last year. Their proposal for a tipped employee tier to our minimum wage law
would allow any server earning at least $12 an hour, including tips, to be paid
a minimum wage of $8 per hour. The
concern in the restaurant industry if a lower wage is not enacted for servers
is that it will directly result in job loss in Minnesota, mirroring what
happened in Oregon and Washington when the minimum wage rate rose dramatically.
Small business fully supports significant restrictions being
placed on the flawed MNSure program.
From the inconvenience it caused Minnesotans trying to enroll to utilize
the program, to the flawed provisions in the current law, there is much that
should be changed, below are the top 3 concerns for small business.
Currently, MNSure can arbitrarily exclude
insurers from participating in the program, regardless of whether they meet the
criteria under Obamacare.
The health insurance exchange is exempted from
the normal rule-making process that all state agencies must comply with. They can quickly enact new rules and policies
without the public, including health care providers and health insurance
professionals, being afforded the opportunity to give input.
While the salaries of most state employees are
determined by a salary schedule, those that work for MNSure have no caps for
the higher earners salaries.
RESTRICTIONS ON SELF-INSURANCE FOR SMALL BUSINESS
NFIB is part of a coalition pushing legislation to loosen
the restrictions on self-insurance for small business. This would make it
easier for small businesses to exit the mandates and restrictions of the Obamacare
market and provide more affordable health insurance for their employees through
self-insuring. The existing Minnesota
law is more restrictive than most states regarding self-insurance and loosening
restrictions will provide an option for many small businesses who are willing
to make the investment and incur the risks of self-insurance.
ABUSE/ TORT REFORM
We are back at it on the lawsuit abuse issue although it is
certainly an uphill effort in the current legislative environment. NFIB is one of the co-leaders of Minnesotans
for Lawsuit Reform and we are pushing significant measures this year.
One of the worst measures that passed in the
2014 session was extending familial status to the state’s Human Rights Act by
making any employee with a child under age 18 potentially eligible to seek
redress when suing their employer. Previously, most of the protected classes
were; race, religion, gender, disability, and sexual orientation. Last year’s legislature recklessly placed
about one-third of the population under the Human Rights Act, making any worker
with a child under the age of 18 a protected class. Through this action,
Minnesota became only the sixth state to add familial status and many fear it
will cause an unbearably large number of lawsuits against employers. Exempt small business from the new familial
status discrimination lawsuits, by mirroring the federal EEOC law.
NFIB and the lawsuit reform coalition are
pushing legislation that would make it extremely difficult for a trespasser to
legally pursue a landowner in the event of injury. Trespassers certainly should not have the
right to sue you if they become injured in the course of trespassing.
Our coalition anticipates the passage of legislation
that will make it more difficult to file a class action lawsuit in Minnesota as
well as reduce pre-judgment interest from 10% to 4%. Both of these bills passed
in the 2012 session and were vetoed by Governor Dayton.
NFIB will be joining with the new House majority to push
several new rule-making reforms. One
measure requires the legislature to reapprove any rule that would cost a small
business, a farmer, or a small city more than $10,000 per year in
compliance. It is an easy common-sense
approach that should be enacted but unfortunately Governor Dayton also vetoed
that legislation in 2012.
APPROVAL OF PERMITS
Legislation was introduced to attempt to expedite decisions
on environmental and resource management permits. Although not a mandatory requirement, the
goal for many permits would be changed from 90 to 45 days. Many business groups
have been able to work with the Dayton administration on this issue and the
Governor has pushed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to act quicker on