Here is a rundown of the latest headlines at the Capitol as we bring another week to a close in the Legislature:
HOUSE DFL ISSUES BUDGET
House Democrats this week issued the outline of their budget. The proposed spending total is at least $39.3 billion. It includes at least $2.4 billion in new taxes, with a “temporary” income tax added for top earners. This is on top of the income tax hike the governor is seeking and it would give Minnesota one of the nation’s top rates.
We can balance our budget without raising taxes by staying within the limits of available revenue. As I have recently noted, our economy is heading in the right direction and revenue is rising by about 3 percent. A new report shows our state gained 14,500 jobs in February and our unemployment rate has been reduced to 5.5 percent.
There is strong concern these tax increases could deliver a substantial setback to our economic growth and bring us in the wrong direction. It says something when Senate Democrats and Gov. Dayton give a lukewarm reception to a proposal from House Democrats.
In spite of raising taxes by more than $2 billion, the DFL plan does not call for an increase in nursing home/long-term care funding. This is disappointing, especially as we enter an era of unprecedented numbers of people reaching the age where they will require such care.
House Democrats say they expect their budget bills to pass through the House floor by the end of April. I will keep you posted.
TOWN HALL MEETINGS IN THE WORKS
I am planning to co-host a series of three town hall meetings in District 8A towns with Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen Friday, April 12. We are still working to nail down the locations, but I want to pass along the times and cities now to assist your planning. The schedule is:
FRIDAY, APRIL 12
8:30 to 9:30 a.m., Perham
11 a.m. to noon, Battle Lake
2:30 to 3:30 p.m., Fergus Falls
I will provide more information – including specific meeting places – in a forthcoming email.
OVER OBJECTIONS, UNION PUSH CONTINUES
A bill that would unionized day care providers is advancing through the House even though a recent survey shows more than 86 percent of the providers themselves oppose forming a union.
Child care providers – including those who accept state Child Care Assistance Program funding – are small-business owners. Unions, however, are for employees. Even the DFL author of this proposal said as much. Why are legislators trying to unionize independent small business owners? Profit margins for child care providers already are relatively small. There is concern that imposing union dues will cause providers to stop accepting CCAP, leading to a shortage of providers for low-income families.
GUN BACKGROUND CHECKS STILL A CONCERN
A House committee did not take an expected vote on legislation that would have required universal background checks on nearly all gun sales in Minnesota this week because it did not have the votes to pass. But House Democrats said they would work together on a proposal that would force background checks on citizens who buy weapons at gun shows – a proposal most law-abiding Minnesota gun owners oppose.
It was clear universal background checks would not pass this year, but if background checks at gun shows are approved, the door will be opened for second amendment opponents to build on their gun control success next year. Gun rights supporters should be concerned about this latest development, but should also know that House Republicans are unified on this issue and support your right to keep and bear arms.
CONGRATS BOYS BB TEAMS
Congratulations to the Battle Lake and Perham high school basketball teams for advancing to this week’s state basketball tournament. It is fun to see local athletes reap the rewards of their hard work.
I am working to get hearings for two bills I have authored. One (HF 1492) grants five-year property tax exemptions for certain new businesses and expanding business property. Another bill (1622) extends an agreement pertaining to the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center.