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BPAA State Policy Update - February 1, 2021

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COVID-19 Updates and Tracking


State Budget and Stimulus Updates

  • The Texas Minnesota Governor Proposes Tax Hikes to Pay for Covid-19 Losses Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday proposed $1.66 billion in new taxes over two years as part of a package to raise $3.05 billion to make up for losses resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • Walz (D) at a news conference labeled his $52.4 billion, 2022–23 biennium spending document a virus recovery budget. He proposed new programs, such as state-financed paid medical leave, a one-time $750 payment to poor Minnesotans, and expanded passes for public transportation, to help those economically harmed because of the virus. About half of employed Minnesotans work for small businesses, Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said. The plan allocates $50 million to support small businesses affected by the pandemic, with an additional pool of $3 million for especially hard-hit enterprises
    • Tax increases supported by Walz include:
      • Creating a fifth tier to the state’s personal income tax affecting the state’s 0.7% top earners, starting at $500,000 for single filers, $750,000 for people who declare themselves head of household, and $1 million for married couples filing jointly, to raise $403 million.
      • Imposing on individuals, trusts, and estates an additional 1.5% tax on capital gains and dividends on income of more than $500,000 up to $1 million, and an additional 4% tax on capital gains and investment income exceeding $1 million, raising $486 million.
      • Taxing certain repatriated foreign income, retroactive to tax year 2016, to raise a total of $336 million.
      • Increasing the state’s corporate franchise tax rate to 11.25% from 9.5%, effective for tax year 2021, raising $424 million.
      • Increasing estate taxes by $28 million by setting the state tax exclusion at $2.7 million.


  • New York Lawmakers Pass Pandemic-Assistance Bill Package: The New York State Assembly passed legislation Tuesday that would allow part-time workers to collect unemployment insurance and put a stay on evictions and foreclosures for small businesses. The package of measures aims to help those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic—including a bill to prevent small businesses from being penalized by higher unemployment rates—and legislation appropriating aid to help the state pay for unemployment benefits, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) said in a Tuesday news release. The bill package was passed by the state Senate earlier this month and now heads to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) for his consideration. Read more about the package here.


  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine proposes $1 billion COVID-19 relief plan in two-year state budget Gov. Mike DeWine is proposing a largely state-funded, approximately $1 billion plan to help Ohio businesses and communities to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic as part of two-year state budget recommendations to Ohio lawmakers. Savings from prior budget cuts and federal funding of other programs, including Medicaid, will cover all but $150 million of the proposed package that will come from direct federal coronavirus relief dollars, DeWine said. Read more here at the Dispatch


  • Proposed Missouri budget benefits from federal COVID-19 relief funding Missouri Gov. Mike Parson last week proposed a well-funded 2022 state budget thanks to federal cash buoying pandemic-related revenue losses. Many of Parson's budget priorities are consistent with his administration's long-standing goals, from workforce development to infrastructure.
    • State Budget Director Dan Haug said the optimistic projection for the $34.1 billion budget is a product of savings secured from CARES Act funds for state and local governments.
    • Parson's budget proposal is just the first step in drafting the next state spending plan. Lawmakers will use the document as a starting point for crafting the final version, which they must pass by May. The new budget year starts July 1. Read more here at News Tribune.


COVID-19 Updates

  • Southwestern Illinois lawmakers urge Gov. J.B. Pritzker to ease COVID-19 restrictions Southwestern Illinois lawmakers urged Gov. J.B. Pritzker to ease coronavirus restrictions on the metro-east as the region saw recent improvements in COVID-19 metrics. The metro-east, known as Region 4 as defined by the Illinois Department of Public Health, was the last in the state as of Thursday to remain under the second-tightest tier of restrictions where indoor dining at bars and restaurants is not allowed. The 10 other IDPH-defined regions were under either Tier 1 mitigations or were back in Phase 4 of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan. The metro-east remained in Tier 2 though the region came close this week to meeting requirements to have the rules loosened. Read more here.


  • California Lifts Stay-At-Home Orders: 'Light At The End Of The Tunnel' California is lifting stay-at-home orders for all regions in the state, including Southern California, the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley — the three regions that had still been under the order — citing a drop in intensive care unit projections. But health officials warn that most counties still need to follow strict guidelines.  Read more at NPR.
    • California Gov. Gavin Newsom Faces Recall Effort Amid Anger Over Covid-19 Restrictions Frustration over California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic is fueling an effort to make him the second governor in the state’s history to be recalled from office.
    • Proponents of the recall have raised more than $1.7 million and say they have gathered 1.2 million of the 1.5 million signatures they need by March 17 to get a recall on the ballot, which under state law would likely happen in the fall.
    • Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, has a 57% approval rating among likely voters in the most recent public poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, released in November. Mr. Newsom’s office referred questions to political adviser Dan Newman, who said the governor has taken bold steps to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.


  • Wash. Gov. Inslee: King, Pierce and Snohomish counties can open restaurant dining and fitness centers under new Washington COVID-19 metrics King, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston and three other counties will be able to relax some COVID-19 restrictions on businesses starting Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee has announced. That change will allow restaurants in those counties to reopen indoor service at restaurants 25% capacity through 11 p.m. Indoor fitness centers and live entertainment venues — including museums, bowling alleys and concert halls — can also reopen to 25% capacity. Bars that don’t serve food, however, must remain closed. Read more at the Seattle Times.


  • Struggling NYC Business Owners Not Buying Cuomo’s Newfound Interest in Reopening To many of New York City’s struggling small business owners, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent admission that “we simply cannot stay closed” means little after months of stonewalling.
    • Ever since Cuomo announced the first pandemic lockdowns in March, small businesses in the city have been throttled by burdensome restrictions. Earlier this month, the state allowed restaurants to resume indoor dining at half-capacity, but left the city out of the equation. Thousands of businesses have closed over the past year, and New York City’s 12.1 percent unemployment rate in November was nearly double the national rate of 6.7 percent over the same period.


Minimum Wage and Labor

  • Every state raising its minimum wage in 2021 According to a report from the National Employment Law Project, a record-breaking number of jurisdictions are set to increase their minimum wages this year.  President-elect Joe Biden's newly announced stimulus package calls for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. To kick off 2021, 20 states raised their minimum wages. According to a report from the National Employment Law Project, a record-breaking number of jurisdictions are set to increase their minimum wages this year.  President-elect Joe Biden's newly announced stimulus package calls for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Read more here at Business Insider.


  • Florida GOP senator pushing ballot measure exempting some workers from $15 minimum wage A proposal by a Republican state senator looking to narrow who qualifies for Florida’s voter-approved increase in the minimum wage is drawing blistering responses from the attorney who spearheaded the ballot initiative and the state’s Democratic Party chief.


Liability Protections

  • States Revive Push for Virus Liability Protections for Employers More than a dozen states at the start of the 2021 legislative season are renewing a push to shield businesses from lawsuits over customers’ or employees’ Covid-19 exposure.
    • From Florida to Montana, state lawmakers have declared liability protections to be a top priority this year. Republican lawmakers are mostly leading the charge, but in a few cases they’re coordinating with Democratic legislators or governors. If these states enact liability shields, they would join more than a dozen others that did so in 2020.
    • These state laws broadly shield all or most types of businesses from coronavirus-related liability lawsuits, unless a plaintiff can show the company was grossly negligent or guilty of intentional misconduct.
    • After a federal proposal championed by Senate Republicans failed to win approval, the attention is back on the states and expected to stay there, now that Democrats will control both chambers of Congress and the White House as of Wednesday afternoon. Read more at Bloomberg Law.
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