Greetings from St. Paul, where we have had a week of long, long floor sessions to discuss the Democrats’ omnibus finance bills to shape our state’s next two-year budget.
Here is more information on the omnibus bills that have received votes so far, with Democrats passing each of them, for the most part, on party-line votes:
The Democrats’ health and human services omnibus bill raises health care costs,cuts funding for nursing homes and allows rampant fraud to continue in child care and other public programs.
Nursing home rates would be reduced by $68 million, while the tax on health care would add an estimated $2.5 billion to our costs the next four years.
The failure to address child care fraud is unacceptable, but the majority has refused to hold hearings on the non-partisan reports prepared by our Legislative Auditor confirming widespread fraud exists.
The tax bill contains a number of new taxes that total more than $3 billion over the next four years, including regressive taxes that disproportionately impact middle- and lower-income Minnesotans.
The $3 billion in new taxes within this bill is part of a broader budget proposal by House Democrats that will raise taxes on Minnesotans by over $12 billion during the next four years including a 70% gas tax hike, billions in health care taxes, and over $2 billion in new taxes on Minnesotans paychecks to pay for their Paid Leave proposal.
The bill shifts more than $400 million from road and bridge funding to help increase K-12 spending by $900 million the next two years. The bill also disappointingly increases the funding disparity between metro schools and schools in the rest of the state by 4 percent
Those are reasons enough to oppose this bill, but it also includes a rather controversial sexual education mandate with Planned Parenthood in charge of the curriculum. The so-called “learning material” has been described as pornographic by some and it could be presented to our children by unlicensed, uncertified activists brought into our schools. Amendments offered by House Republicans to delete this section of the bill or to allow schools to opt out of sexual health curriculum mandate were denied.
On a positive note, we were able to remove from the bill a provision that would allow pre-Labor Day starts for schools in our state the next two years. I supported eliminating that provision from the bill because it would have brought negative impacts. Resorts and many other businesses already have a tight window of summertime weekends to provide services and starting school before Labor Day would dampen tourism on one of the summer’s big travel weekends. It also would be problematic for farmers, State Fair exhibitors/attendees and beyond.
Look for more news on budget bills next week as we make our way through the remaining finance proposals. Among them is a transportation bill (with a 20-cent per gallon gas tax increase) and higher education, the area where I serve as the minority lead. I’ll circle back with more on those next time.