Greg Davids
Greg Davids

Even-numbered years are shorter sessions for the Minnesota Legislature and typically aren’t quite as busy as sessions during odd-numbered years. However, the 2018 session, while short in length, is going to be busier than usual for several reasons.

It starts with finding funding for the Legislature to do its business.  

“Generally, in the even-numbered years, we’d work on a bonding bill,” said District 28B State Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston. “We did a major bonding bill last year, which was out of order because we couldn’t agree on a bonding bill the year before. That meant we had to play catch-up.”

With the session underway, starting Tuesday, Davids said the first thing to do is secure funding for the Legislature to operate. Gov. Mark Dayton eliminated funding for the Legislature at the end of last year’s session, so it’s the first thing to take care of, or, as Davids said, “it could be a very short session.” Davids said it was an unfortunate move by the governor, but Dayton has agreed to sign a bill to take care of that.

“It’s going to be an extremely busy session because of the tax reform bill passed at the federal level,” Davids said. “It’s a very good bill for most Americans. There are some issues in which certain people could actually get their taxes increased. So, as chair of the Tax Committee, I want to work very closely with the governor, the Department of Revenue, and Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, to get a tax conformity bill passed.”

Tax conformity discussions typically lead to bipartisanship, according to Davids. Both parties want to make it as easy as possible for Minnesotans to file their taxes. Conforming to the federal tax law will make it a lot less complicated. This is the biggest tax change at the federal level in decades, so it will take some work to bring everything into line with the federal level.

“The tax bill can be a little harder on states with higher tax rates,” Davids said. “When you say you can only go up to $10,000 on SALT (state and local tax rates), including property taxes on your home (not for businesses), and you can’t deduct your state income tax from your federal return anymore, that hurts higher-taxed states.”

Davids said his goal is to put together a program that will keep as many people from tax increases as possible. Overall, he said the federal tax bill is still phenomenal. He said when you can double the standard deduction, a lot more people will pay less in taxes, or even no taxes at all.

“In areas where deductions have been lost, which means higher taxes for certain people, I want to minimize the impact as much as possible,” Davids said.  “Democrats that I’ve talked to about the issue, so far, are in agreement. The question is ‘how do we get there?’

“For a short session, I’m just not seeing the short part. It’s going to be busy. Doing nothing is not an option. I spoke to the Department of Revenue and they couldn’t administer the tax code if we don’t make some changes.”

Davids has submitted several local bills, many of them having to do with funding public trails. They include the Harmony Trail to the state line. Options on land purchases for the trail are about to run out. The Preston Trail is included, as is the Preston Elevator historic restoration project. The funding bills also include requests for a trail issue in La Crescent and the Lanesboro Fish Hatchery.

“We’ve also got some problems with the MNLARS system,” Davids said. “The auto license system was rolled out too early and it’s not working. We’ll need to pay some attention to that, as well.”

Davids expects the session, which started on Feb. 20 and ends on May 21, to be a good one.