MAKATO (TEC News) - In the "year of the budget," Minnesota lawmakers have several accomplishments from the recent legislative session to be proud of.
Starting the session with a deficit of $647 million, the main focus was to raise revenue while balancing the budget for the next biennium. To help raise the needed revenue, lawmakers looked to the state's current tax system.
Changes included increasing the income tax rate for the state's top two percent of earners, closing corporate tax loopholes, increasing the cigarette tax, and applying sales tax to online purchases. Minnesotans earning $150,000 individually and $250,000 jointly will pay an income tax rate of 9.85 percent, which will generate $1.1 billion each year of the next biennium. Closing corporate tax loopholes will generate $400 million, and the new cigarette tax will add an additional $430 million, said state Rep. Kathy Brynaert.
The new online sales tax, or "Amazon Tax," will match the current sales tax for regular, in-store purchases. Minnesota's education system will receive the bulk of the additional revenue generated, said Rep. Brynaert. More than $700 million in investments will establish programs like all-day kindergarten, and help fund research at the University of Minnesota: Brynaert 3 "positively supported" :16
In addition to the investments in education, lawmakers set aside $300 million for the "Corridors of Commerce" highway construction program, which would allow state highways to apply for bonds that would fund construction projects related to commercial and safety needs.
And perhaps the most noteworthy accomplishment: legalizing gay marriage, which was an "historical legislative change," said Rep. Brynaert.