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DFL lawmakers want minimum wage to rise, farm sales tax to fall

WILLMAR — No need to raise a fuss or a holler about working all hours for that $6.15 minimum wage.

Minnesota’s DFL lawmakers are optimistic that an increase in the minimum wage will become law this upcoming session, most likely as a boost from the current $6.15 to close to $9.50, according to House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.

Thissen joined District 17B and 17A DFL Reps. Mary Sawatzky, of Willmar, and Andrew Falk, of Murdock, in looking ahead at the session during a stop at the Tribune office on Monday.

Any increase in the minimum wage will likely be coupled with increases in funding to nursing homes to help them absorb the added costs, said Thissen.

If low-wage earners have something to look forward to with the upcoming session, so too do many of their bosses. Discussions to repeal the warehouse sales tax and other business-to-business taxes enacted during the last session and scheduled to take effect this year are sure to occur as the session starts, and should lead to some action, according to the majority party speaker.

Job creation, education and property tax relief remain the priorities going into the session, they said.

The legislators said they are hopeful of tax relief for the agricultural sector. They are proposing to increase the agricultural market value homestead credit and repeal the sales tax on farm equipment repair.

Greater Minnesota will be targeted for increased spending to expand broadband services.

The DFL lawmakers also want to see more funds for skills training to benefit rural businesses. They’re also proposing that small business development centers provide more consulting help to rural businesses seeking to grow.

Rep. Sawatzky said she is also hopeful of seeing an increase in transportation spending. If revenue forecasts for a surplus prove true, Thissen said DFL’ers will be looking to transfer some general fund monies into the transportation bu-dget.

Sawatzky noted that many infrastructure needs have been overlooked, particularly in transportation.

There is a $50 billion gap in needs to address in the upcoming 20 years.

The legislators said they are going into the next session confident that they made the right steps during the last session. Increases in educational funding and investments in infrastructure are paying off, said Falk.  

 “Government and good public policy can improve people’s lives instead of just leaving it to the free market and letting the chips fall where they may,’’ he said.

Much of the upcoming discussions will focus on the nearly $1 billion in bonding proposals contained in the governor’s list for the session.

The lawmakers believe a final bonding bill will be “slimmer’’ than the $1 billion asked for by the governor.

The legislators also expect discussions on finding ways to help homeowners and businesses hurt by the recent spike in propane prices. The proposals range from increasing funding for home heating assistance programs to creating tax incentives for businesses to develop propane storage infrastructure.

There will be debate again on whether local governments can place public notices on their websites instead of publishing notices in legal newspapers. Thissen said he does not believe the proposal will advance.

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