First off, congratulations to the Henning Hornets for claiming the State Class A boys basketball tournament championship by defeating North Woods last weekend. What an amazing feat by a group of exceptional athletes and their coaches, with the memory of Jacob Quam in our hearts and minds.
At the Capitol this week, we welcomed the newest House member, Rep. Nathan Nelson of Hinckley. Rep. Nelson was sworn after fellow Republican Rep. Jason Rarick vacated the District 11B seat to run for – and eventually capture – the Senate District 11 position Sen. Tony Lourey resigned from to take a job in Gov. Walz’s administration. Welcome, Rep. Nelson and I look forward to working with you.
Visitors to my legislative office this week included Casey Ward of the Good Samaritan Nursing Home in Battle Lake and representatives of the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities advocating for independent living centers such as the Freedom Resource Center in Fergus Falls. Thank you all for taking the time to meet with me and for sharing perspectives regarding your efforts.
Work on establishing a new two-year state budget will soon begin in earnest now that the House and Senate majorities have followed the governor by putting forward their proposals. The House and Senate plans were unveiled just this week and, while we are still working on understanding the details of each, there are some key points to touch on.
First, House Democrats confirmed they are following the governor by proposing a 20 cent increase to the gas tax and by restoring the provider tax on health care. In contrast, the Senate Republican plan includes zero increases on taxes and fees.
It will be interesting to see where negotiations take us and I urge the Senate to hold strong in not raising taxes – especially at a time the state has a $1 billion surplus – and also by working for a lower overall spending total than what is proposed by House Democrats and the governor.
The Legislature is set to adjourn May 20 so, when you factor in the Easter/Passover break, only six full weeks remain in the 2019 session. Much will need to happen between now and then to get done on time.
On a final note, this week House Republicans unveiled a comprehensive proposal to crack down on fraud in Minnesota’s public programs, with an emphasis on the Child Care Assistance Program. This effort is in response to a report from the nonpartisan legislative auditor that found fraud within CCAP to be widespread and pervasive.
Fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars is unacceptable and I am pleased these common-sense measures have been authored to protect Minnesotans.
Have a good weekend and good luck to the Twins as the 2019 season begins, a true sign of spring!