Tax bill passes Minnesota Senate, now heads to Gov. Walz for approval

(KSTP) – The Minnesota Senate passed the omnibus tax bill Sunday afternoon by a 34-33 vote. It passed the House of Representatives on Saturday night and now heads to Gov. Tim Walz for final approval.

Its passage followed a heated debate by House members.   

“There are a number of efforts that make our tax code simpler and more fair and equitable,” said Rep. Aisha Gomez, DFL-Minneapolis.

“How shameful it was that we’re raising taxes on some Minnesotans and redistributing it to others,” said Rep. Jon Kuznick, R-Lakeville.

Republican lawmakers, critical of the measure, say it will increase taxes by $2.2 billion despite an $18-billion budget surplus.

“We are passing in all these bills, the largest tax increase in state history amidst the largest budget surplus we’ve had in state history,” says Rep. Peggy Bennett, R- Albert Lea.

The bill includes $260 rebate checks for single tax filers and $520 rebates for married couples.

There’s a reduction in Social Security taxes for some, a child tax credit, rebates for renters, and other tax breaks, which DFL members say are badly needed.

“Members, millions of Minnesotans will feel the benefit of this bill, the Minnesotans who need to feel a little bit of relief,” noted Rep. Michael Howard, DFL- Richfield.

But some of the most impassioned debate was about a proposed ban on certain e-pull tab games.

“The charities are being killed by the tax numbers,” says Rep. Kristin Robbins (R-Maple Grove).  

At issue are one-touch e-pull tab devices that activate multiple rows of characters to determine if a player has won anything.

Native American tribes say those tabs look and operate too much like slot machines, which only tribes are allowed to operate in Minnesota — DFL lawmakers say the changes will not be an outright ban.

“It is not true that the bill ends pull tabs or electronic pull tabs, that is not true, categorically false,” says Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL- Coon Rapids.  

State records show paper pull tabs generated more than $2 billion in gross receipts and e-pull tabs brought in $1.9 billion.

But charitable gaming organizations say they could lose millions if the change is approved. They say groups connected to veterans, firefighters and youth sports will be hurt.

“There’s going to be no income coming in, or income so minimal that they can’t pay their bills, they can’t pay their employers,” says Keith Franke, the executive director of the group Protect Our Charities. “They can’t donate back into the community.”

In a recent statement, the Indian Gaming Association says the tribes have long supported Minnesota charities.

The group says it hopes any changes to the games are offset by tax relief so that donations can continue going to those charities.