For more information contact: Peter Glessing 651-296-4230
The 2014 Legislative Session is now over and, while I’m proud of the work I was able to accomplish for the residents of our district, I found the session to be disappointing overall.
As a member of the minority party in the legislature, it’s often difficult to get a committee hearing for a bill, let alone a piece of legislation passed. Therefore, I was pleased to have been the chief author of a major piece of legislation that became law.
In 2013 the legislature passed and the governor signed into law a proposal that exempted local units of government from having to pay sales tax. However, the Department of Revenue’s interpretation of the law did not include local units of government that save taxpayer money by sharing services among multiple cities – known as Joint Powers Agreements.
One such entity within our community, the South Lake Minnetonka Police Department, operates under a Joint Powers Agreement for police services for the cities of Excelsior, Greenwood, Shorewood and Tonka Bay. I successfully authored legislation that would allow JPA entities to qualify for the sales tax exemption. We shouldn’t be penalizing local units of government for spending taxpayer dollars more efficiently by pooling resources – especially when they are doing so for the safety of the public.
Unfortunately, the exemption does not become effective until 2016; versus the retroactive date to the start of the biennium for which my bill specified. My hope is that the next legislature will pass legislation to make that sales tax exemption effective sooner.
Regrettably, much of the legislation that came out of this legislative session was, in my view, not good for the hardworking taxpayers of Minnesota. I’m particularly concerned about the lack of spending discipline shown by this legislature. While lawmakers certainly need to fund key areas of government, I was disappointed with the misplaced priorities by Democrats in St. Paul.
For instance, the supplemental spending bill introduced - and passed - on the very last day of the legislative session spends an additional $262.73 million for the current fiscal year and $842.34 million more in the next fiscal year in 2016-17 as well. That’s over one billion dollars of additional pending! Needless to say, I cast a ‘no’ vote on the bill. Instead of rushing to spend tax dollars on a long wish list which included a new $90 million new office building for state senators, the focus should have been on funding basic priorities and on returning any remaining revenue to those from whom the revenue was taken in the first place – you the taxpayer!
Over the past two legislative sessions, state government spending has increased by more than 12 percent at a time when our state’s economy has only grown by 4 percent. Overall spending increased by more than $1,500 for every man, woman, and child in Minnesota. With the troubling news that Minnesota shed over 4,000 jobs in the month of April, it’s conceivable we’ll continue to see a reduction in tax revenue because fewer people are working. Such irresponsible increases in spending – especially given recent economic news and revenue of $161.6 million less than projected for February through April – will likely put Minnesota in a situation whereby we will face a deficit yet again.
Just as families set budgets and prioritize spending, government should be doing the same. I’m dismayed by the lack of respect shown for taxpayers over the past two years and, based on your feedback, know that you are as well.
On a positive note, I was pleased to co-author life-saving legislation known as Steve’s Law, which was signed into law. This bill allows police officers and first responders to carry Narcan, a drug that can be used to revive people who have overdosed on heroin. After having met with constituents – mothers from families like many of ours whose adult children have become addicts as a result of easy access to prescription drugs – my eyes were opened to the many challenges facing neighbors within our community. Their passion was an inspiration to me to continue to look for ways to be part of a solution to those in need.
While I could not support this year’s bonding bill given the lack of critical infrastructure projects, I am delighted to have supported last year’s $156 million bonding bill which funded the Capitol restoration project (the new Senate office building was not part of that bill) ensuring our Capitol remains a beautiful and safe place for the people of Minnesota to come visit.
Although we are no longer in session, please do not hesitate to contact me with your questions, comments, and concerns regarding state issues.