Greetings from the Capitol! This has been an important week as Governor Dayton delivered his State of the State speech and set the tone for the legislative session ahead.
State of the State Speech
On Wednesday evening, all legislators and their guests heard Governor Dayton summarize the successes of his first two years in office – and describe the future. He cited Minnesota's economy which had the 12th best job growth in 2012, the growth in our agricultural exports which increased 13 percent, and the improved educational attainment of our K-12 students. Their math scores were up 5.3 percent from 2011-2012 and their reading scores were up 1.3 percent. He went on to say that Minnesota continues to lead the nation in the area of health – the lowest heart disease death rate, and the lower percentage of obese or overweight children, also the second-longest life expectancy.
He went on to then describe how his budget would lift us out of this “miserable deficit-to-deficit” cycle. And to describe his idea of a better future for Minnesotans. Of course, on his budget proposals, and whether they're good for Minnesota, there will be much debate.
Many of the Republican legislators in attendance brought business leaders from our districts. I was pleased to have as my guest Lino Lakes resident Rick Gobell, president of Drake Bank. He joined with dozens of others in a roundtable discussion with legislators pertaining to job creation. It was a great opportunity for legislators to do the listening and hear what is on the minds of our job creators.
These business leaders expressed concerns over the governor’s proposal to raise taxes by $3.7 billion saying these taxes would affect all Minnesotans, not merely the “rich.” They said the new $1.5 billion business-to-business tax on IT professionals, advertising and accounting professionals would put Minnesota jobs at a serious disadvantage. Other points these business owners made were:
· The governor’s budget will require us to downsize our businesses - extending the previous downsizing we experienced due to the economic downturn.
· I'm looking to neighboring states to expand.
· We are providing wages, salaries and benefits to thousands - and yet the governor thinks we are not paying our fair share. Our wealth goes into expanding our businesses so more people have jobs - but he wants to tax it.
· We are hurting and we aren't the big corporations.
State revenue is projected to rise by 3 percent without raising taxes, and many legislators like myself believe a responsible budget would stay within that threshold. The governor’s plan would unnecessarily raise taxes on all Minnesotans – not just the “rich” – to increase state spending at more than twice the rate of our economic growth. This is the wrong approach.
Second Amendment Rights
It was great to see all the Second Amendment supporters at the Capitol this week. The topic of discussion centered on a raft of bills to restrict guns by infringing on our constitutional rights. Some of this legislation is even more radical than what President Obama is proposing. While I do not sit on the Public Safety Committee, I have received more than 100 emails in the last week with 90 percent favoring no further restrictions on law-abiding citizens to manufacture, buy or own firearms.
While we do not know the final language or the final disposition of these bills, I will not be supporting bills that will have the effect of disarming law-abiding citizens. That will only serve to embolden the criminal element. Visit www.house.mn and review H.F. 241 and H.F. 242 to see just how far-reaching the new gun restrictions would be.
Health Care Exchange - new revelations
Democrats are pushing through a bill that would raise health insurance costs and decrease choice in Minnesota. The proposal creates a new 3.5-percent tax on insurance premiums to fund a brand new government “super agency.” This agency would be subject to limited legislative oversight and have broad authority over our robust health insurance market. There are also serious data privacy concerns over the personal data that will be reported to federal agencies like the IRS and the Dept. of Homeland Security for 'compliance' purposes. This is not your basic “Travelocity for health insurance.” In fact, it reaches far beyond Obamacare mandates and severely curtails free-market choices in healthcare.
Please keep your feedback coming. And if I can be of assistance on an issue, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Have a great weekend,