Republican leaders of the House passed a bill to curb business taxes Tuesday, while also working behind the scenes on a new proposal for a Minnesota Vikings stadium.
Both proposals drew fire from Gov. Mark Dayton, who urged GOP leaders to "get serious" as they near adjournment.
The House vote to aid business taxes came a day after House and Senate negotiators put the finishing touches on the tax bill and waited to see where negotiations went between their leaders and Dayton. With those talks stalled Tuesday, the House took action.
"I think we put together a very, very good bill that will move Minnesota forward in the areas of job creation and tax relief for all Minnesotans," said Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, chairman of the House Tax Committee.
The Republican-backed bill includes a freeze on the statewide business property tax, an upfront sales tax exemption on business equipment purchases and a boost in funding for the state's Angel Investment Credit to help new small business get off the ground.
To cover the cost of the package of tax breaks, Republicans use a one-time dip into the state's rainy day fund. Democrats argue that's an irresponsible approach.
The bill would make the state's projected budget deficit even larger, said state Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington. She also criticized GOP leaders for shutting Democrats out of the process.
"Not a single member of the minority served to help guide, shape and possibly work with the governor on a solution on a bill that could become law," Lenczewski said. "So, now we're looking at sort of the uber-partisan bill of all time. And on top of it, incredibly fiscally irresponsible."
State Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, took issue with Lenczewski's characterization of the bill. Anderson said the tax breaks will result in more high-paying jobs in Minnesota.
"If helping out businesses in this state is considered 'uber partisan,' we are far afield from our goal as a Legislature," Anderson said. "This bill helps provide the job providers in this state the tool they need to grow jobs and grow our economy."
Dayton supports some tax breaks for businesses, but not the entire GOP package. He is especially opposed to its reduction in business property tax revenue, which he said would "rob from the financial future of the state."
Dayton also fired back at House Republicans over a new wrinkle in the ongoing Vikings stadium saga. The governor said he was disappointed to learn about secret talks between GOP leaders and the team on an alternative plan to build a less expensive, roof-less stadium, using general obligation bonds. There would be no gambling component. Dayton accused Republicans of playing last minute games.
"Who's going to get the credit? Who's going to get the blame? Who gets a win? Who gets a loss? I mean, that's what it's come down to for them," Dayton said. "You don't get a tax bill, that's a political loss. So they've got to be a political loss here. But they don't want the political loss on the stadium, so they want to put that monkey on our back, and make us to blame for that. I mean it's just cynical underhanded politics, rather than doing what's right for Minnesota."
Republican leaders finally responded a few hours later to discuss the proposal, which would be part of a broader bonding bill. House Speaker Kurt Zellers said he thought the plan was a legitimate idea, not something designed to kill the stadium. Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said he thinks there's growing interest and support for the plan.
"At the end of the day, if you're going to have a proposal that isn't going to have member support or you're not going to have members behind it, then it's an interesting proposal, but not something that can pass," he said.
Zellers said he thinks the new concept is a good idea. But just like the other stadium bill, Zellers would not say whether he would vote for or against it.