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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Friday, March 19, 2021

ST. PAUL, MN — This week, Minnesota House Republicans attempted to move forward on four time sensitive and common-sense bills that would assist workers, employers, law enforcement, and children who have fallen behind in school due to the lack of in-person learning. Unfortunately, the House Democratic majority voted against giving these bills consideration on the House floor.


“We are living under historically unproductive times in the Minnesota House,” said State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska). “That’s why House Republicans tried to act with a sense of urgency on these four bills because we know Minnesotans are waiting for us to take action on these proposals."


The proposals included:


  • Employer tax relief: this bill would have prevented tax hikes on Minnesota businesses who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. A lack of action is causing problems for business owners in Brown, Redwood, and Renville counties, as some of our local business owners will be forced to pay thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in unexpected tax bills.


  • Worker tax relief: this proposal targets those who lost their jobs last year and now have big tax bills because of the extra Unemployment Insurance (UI) relief money they received. It would exclude the first $10,200 of unemployment pay from income tax in the year 2020 and assures that the $600 and $300 federal relief unemployment bonuses will not be taxed by Minnesota.


  • SAFE Account funding: this legislation sets aside $35 million to pay for mutual aid agreements if needed in a public safety emergency, allowing law enforcement to have the resources to respond to potential public safety emergencies anywhere in the state.


  • Funding summer school: this bill would have money made available immediately for in-person summer school opportunities so districts can begin to plan for programming. This proposal defrays the costs of in-person learning, funds student mental health as well as early learning scholarships, and allows the flexibility of local control so schools can meet the needs of their students.


“The reality is Minnesota has a $1.6 billion budget surplus, and will receive $2.5 billion from Washington in federal aid,” Torkelson said. “As all of this is one time revenue, it makes sense to use it to solve one-time problems that Minnesotans are facing.”


Torkelson is also frustrated by the lack of overall urgency being shown by House leadership. Only ten bills have been approved through the first eleven weeks of session, creating the least productive start in the Minnesota House in at least 25 years.