Monday, September 15, 2008

First Half of September 2008

Some useful resources: The non-partisan Minnesota Taxpayers Association (not to be confused with the Taxpayers League of MN, a decidedly conservative organization that participates in elections) sends us a bi-monthly newsletter outlining budget trends for the state. While I don't think you can get the newsletter on its web site, the MTA has a lot of useful information on-line.

Bio-businesses in our area: I received this from a House colleague recently.

"The BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota launched today BIOMAP, an interactive map that displays more than 2,000 unique bioscience capabilities including private sector, academic sector and public sector resources throughout the state of Minnesota.

"The tool allows you to search Minnesota by city, county or legislative district as well as by industry sector (medical device, pharma/biologics, animal health, renewable energy, food or bio materials) to see companies or institutions that fit your search criteria. The map includes address, a website link and a brief description."

Legislative Auditor releases several reports: The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) just released several reports, including a special review of the DNR's activities related to the 2007 North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association Conference. The DNR (illegally it seems) raised funds for the conference using state resources, and we had a hearing on the issue in the Environmental Finance Committee during the first week of September. The auditor suggests that the state get tens of thousands of dollars back from the organization that organized the conference.

Governor's 21st Century Tax Reform Commission: This is a commission set up to change the business tax code, and it should report to the Governor by December 1st. There are public meeting notices and other information at the Department of Revenue web site. Chief among the concerns of the group is that sales taxes do not apply to services and Minnesota's economy has been shifting from goods to services in the last two decades. That has fiscal repercussions for the state treasury because sales tax receipts are likely to go down. One presentation on the web site shows tax reforms for businesses in other states. There is a lot of discussion of shifting from a corporate and business income tax rate and moving in the direction of a gross receipts tax (GRT). A GRT would be much lower than the income tax rate but would apply to a broader number of businesses. The Governor's goal is to make any changes "revenue-neutral," which means that the state would net the same amount of revenue as before.

Schedule: On Monday, September 8th, I attended a joint meeting of the House Environmental Finance Committee and the Senate Environment & Natural Budget Division. We heard testimony about the recent legislative auditor's special review about the DNR mentioned above. On Wednesday, September 10th, I met with several stakeholders at Region's Hospital concerned about anti-competitive behavior in the oncology industry. On Thursday, September 11th, I met in Circle Pines with representatives of Anoka County libraries and the cities of Lexington and Circle Pines about the transition from the Circle Pines library to one in Lino Lakes.

Constituent contacts: Shoreview resident asking about the budget for 2009; Circle Pines resident recommending a fiscally conservative agenda for 2009