Posted: 05/30/16 22:39
by Dave Mindeman
These last minute legislative sessions have their quirks. And this year was no exception.
Somehow, a $35 million tax break appeared for the tobacco industry. The Tax Chair Greg Davids had discussed how "unfair" he thought the tax was with its indexing and that it hurt lower income people more. But exactly how it got into the final tax bill is still not fully understood.
In addition to that, there is also an tax provision that everybody had agreed to...a sales tax exemption for High School sports...which was left out. And nobody seems to have an explanation for that either.
The tobacco tax break is a little disturbing because there wasn't wide spread support for it and it was hard to determine who had decided upon this as some kind of priority. Their might have been some clamor from the convenience store lobby, but why would it be so important to them to lower taxes on products that we hope to phase out one day? And yes, it does hit lower income people harder, but only because they are the easier target for tobacco company marketing. Tobacco use increase health care costs, so when we can find a way to lower its use, we, as a state, save money.
But then there is the mystery surrounding the missing sales tax exemption for the Minnesota High School league. Governor Dayton suggested that it was some kind of retribution for a sane transgender policy. But, of course, Kurt Daudt cannot believe that this could have happened. I wish someone would ask Rep. Glen Gruenhagen about that - he might have a better idea.
Games like these have fertile ground in the chaos of a session that gets down to the final hours. It is a time ripe for all kinds of shenanigans...and we are all left to deal with the aftermath.
We need to have defined procedures when it comes to dealing with final legislation. We need more transparency; more procedures that are out in the open; and less reliance on playing political games.
There has to be a better way and we need to find it.