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At 2:00am on Monday morning, Minnesota House members passed groundbreaking tax legislation that raises $2.1 billion over two years. The Senate then approved the legislation and Governor Dayton, long a champion of progressive tax reform, signed it yesterday. The bill increases income taxes on the top two percent of earners, raises the cigarette tax to $1.60, closes some corporate tax loopholes, and extends the sales tax to a handful of services primarily used by businesses, including warehouse storage and telecommunications equipment. Wayne Cox, with Minnesota Citizens for Tax Justice expects much from the legislation: “Shifting taxes from the middle class to those with highest incomes will help the economy.”
A helpful summary of the compromise legislation is available here from the Minnesota Budget Project. Revenues from the cigarette tax will be used to help pay for a new Vikings stadium. This is round two for stadium funding because gaming revenues that were supposed to pay the state’s share of the stadium came in below revenue projections (not surprisingly, PDF). Of course, cigarette taxes (PDF) aren’t very stable revenue sources either, and are likely to decline overtime.
Nan Madden, Director of the Minnesota Budget Project, said of the legislature’s work, “In past years, the response to budget shortfalls has been deep cuts to services and use of timing shifts to kick the problem down the road. This year’s tax bill and budget take a better approach, raising the revenues needed to balance the budget and invest in the future; and reforming our tax system so that we share the responsibility for funding public services more equally.”
So, kudos to Minnesota’s elected leaders for making some difficult decisions and finding a way to balance the state’s books and still provide for quality services into the future. It’s a model other states can learn from.