DFL, GOP don’t agree on special legislative session agenda

By Don Davis

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — Democrats are willing to overturn a new sales tax on farm implement repair when the Legislature next month meets to appropriate money for disaster relief, but Republicans say they want to get rid of two other new taxes, too.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton told reporters after he spoke at Farmfest Thursday that he and legislative leaders are looking at a Sept. 9 special session to provide state funding for local governments in 18 counties that were affected by late-June storms and flooding.

While Dayton had insisted that only disaster relief be considered during the one-day session, he said he now is willing to allow lawmakers to overturn the farm implement repair tax.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, sent GOP leaders a letter Thursday asking them to agree to hold the special session to disaster relief and the farm tax.

GOP leaders Rep. Kurt Daudt of Crown and David Hann of Eden Prairie replied that they also want to eliminate a tax on goods stored in warehouses. A GOP legislative spokeswoman would not say if the two would insist on the warehouse tax vote.

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, has led an effort to overturn the warehouse tax because it is delaying expansion decisions by businesses, including Red Wing Shoes in his community. He and governor candidate Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, also want to get rid of another business tax.

“Along with storm relief and repealing the farm equipment tax, we’re calling on Dayton and DFL legislative leaders to repeal the warehousing tax and the sales tax on equipment for all Minnesota businesses during the special session,” Kelly said.

Governors generally require Democratic and Republican legislative leaders to sign an ironclad agreement as to what will be debated in a special session. Only a governor can call a special session, but only legislators can decide what is debated.

Dayton said that he could consider taking the warehouse tax out of state law next month, but only if Republicans come up with funds to replace those lost by the action. He did not address the third tax Republicans want to eliminate.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, also called for lawmakers to change their minds on building a $90 million “Taj-Mah Senate building” and a law allowing some childcare workers to unionize.

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, has suggested that his bill raising the minimum wage also should be considered.

“We’ve got to keep a lid on this,” Dayton said. “Otherwise, it will be in session until December.”

The Democratic governor said he would like elimination of the farm implement repair tax to be retroactive to when it began July 1. Ag leaders at Farmfest said they have fielded many questions and complaints about the new tax.

Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said farmers pay $2 million a month in the sales tax on farm implement repairs.

Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, was happy with the possibility that the tax will be removed from law.

“They never should have been put in the law in the first place,” Torkelson said.

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