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

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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

ST. PAUL – State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hasnka) said the Farm-City Hub Club recently hosted a legislative forum at their annual Farm Show in New Ulm. One of the hot topics was the looming unemployment insurance crisis, and what might become of a looming tax increase on local employers.


The unwanted answer was officially delivered on March 15.


Despite months of warning and more than $10 billion sitting in the state’s coffers, Torkelson said House Democrats refused to hear any legislation on the House floor that would stop a local employer tax increase of 15% or more from being implemented. The deadline to prevent these unnecessary tax increases was March 15.


“This senseless inaction by House Democrats will have devastating impacts on local job providers,” Torkelson said. 


A debt of more than $1 billion in Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund is what brought the issue forward. The default method to eliminate the UI debt is tax increases on statewide employers unless the legislature agrees to make the payment in a different way. In this case, Minnesota has two pots of money available: a $9.3 billion budget surplus and more than $1 billion in unallocated COVID relief funding.


Torkelson said the Minnesota Senate – on a strong bipartisan basis – approved legislation that would have eliminated the unneeded tax increase on job providers. Not only did the House Democrat majority refuse to debate that bill, but it also failed to bring up a solution of its own before the March 15 deadline.


Before that deadline, Torkelson also noted House Republicans twice tried to move legislation that would have prevented these tax increases. In both cases, House Democrats blocked them from debate.


During a recent committee hearing, Governor Walz’s own employment commissioner even stated that a failure to approve legislation that eliminated the tax increases would “create major problems.”


“There were multiple opportunities to prevent this tax increase from taking effect before the deadline, and House Democrats ignored them all,” Torkelson said. “Now local employers can begin preparing for a massive tax increase because House Democrats would rather play political games with their livelihoods than solve this problem.”