At the midway point of th 2014 legislative session,we have anything but the “Unsession” that it earlier was dubbed.
We have had a lot of talk about eliminating wasteful government and bringing new efficiencies to taxpayers. However, the reality is that one-party rule from the Democrats has brought a torrent of added spending, programs, regulations and government growth. I had hoped the majority would live up to its word and deliver tangible improvements.
Besides the repeal of a small portion of the taxes passed last year, what has been accomplished this session? Here is a glimpse:
Recently passed House legislation will build an unnecessary new Senate office complex that is a prime example of more dubious spending. The majority ignored public objections and put taxpayers on the hook for a $90 million Senate building without giving due public consideration to more cost-effective alternatives.
The House this week passed the final form of an anti-bullying bill. This lawyer’s delight exposes our schools to potential lawsuits, forces unfunded mandates on our districts, lacks parental notification requirements, abridges freedom of speech and due process, and shifts local control to bureaucrats. This one-size-fits-all bill never was requested by our schools - most say they don't need it and don't want it.
This bullying bill goes 100 percent against what most of us want: parental empowerment, budgetary flexibility and important decisions made by local parents and trusted officials in our areas. Besides, we already have a law on the books that requires schools to have a policy on bullying.
The only step left to citizens who object to this Orwellian piece of legislation is to contact Governor Dayton's office and ask him to veto it.
BIPARTISAN PROPERTY TAX RELIEF
On Friday, the House overwhelmingly approved a supplemental tax bill that sends $103 million back to taxpayers this biennium and $108 million in the next. Much of this is through property tax relief. For example, the homestead credit refund (formerly called the Property Tax Refund) for property taxes payable in 2014 is increased by 3 percent and the renter's credit is increased by 6 percent.
Several amendments offered by Republicans were included:
· Republicans offered a DE amendment to do federal conformity for the dependent care credit in 2013, saving 26,000 Minnesotans $80 on average per return. This amendment was adopted.
· Republicans offered an amendment to give a tax credit to first generation college graduates. This amendment was adopted.
· Republicans offered an amendment allowing R & D to be refundable. This amendment was adopted.
· Republicans offered an amendment to give grants to women-owned small businesses to help pay property taxes. This amendment was adopted.
· Republicans offered an amendment providing a credit to farmers who rent land. This amendment did not prevail.
· Democrats voted against providing a sales tax refund to local government joint powers.
· Democrats voted against exempting social security from income taxes.
The MNsure enrollment deadline has passed and Republican legislators recently raised concerns regarding the failure of Gov. Mark Dayton and Democrats to live up to the promises they made while bringing ObamaCare to Minnesota.
Republican legislators asked Governor Dayton and Democrats to take action on three items now that the March 31 enrollment deadline has passed:
1) Reveal how many uninsured Minnesotans now have coverage.
2) Come clean about MNsure operating the old-fashion way, not like Travelocity.
3) Disclose how much premiums will increase when rates are released in September.
Of chief concern is the lack of MNsure balance between public and private plans, and also between younger, healthy enrollees and others. This call for answers from Minnesota legislators follows the federal government launching an investigation into Dayton’s and Democrats’ implementation of ObamaCare in Minnesota. A portion of a letter issued to Gov. Dayton from U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa on March 28 reads:
“It is clear that the Minnesota exchange has failed to live up to expectations. Despite receiving over $155 million in federal grants to set up its ObamaCare exchange, the exchange has managed to enroll only approximately 38,000 people. Put differently, for every person enrolled by the exchange, federal taxpayers gave the state approximately $5,000.”
With Easter break beginning April 10, the Legislature recesses until April 22, but in the two-three weeks left before the end of session, expect a lot of major legislation to get pushed through.
Rep. Linda Runbeck