By Rep. Joe McDonald
As the dust settles on the 2018 session, this will go down in the record books as a rather productive biennium. It is unfortunate the governor recently made some bad decisions with his veto pen, but that cannot take away from other achievements to help Minnesotans.
This includes last year, when we led to enactment the largest tax cut in nearly two decades as well as the largest investment in roads and bridges in state history without a gas tax increase. There also were funding boosts for education and reforms to lower health care costs and expand health care choices for Minnesota families.
The Legislature did its part to build on those accomplishments this year. For example, we passed a tax bill to conform to massive federal changes made last December. Our tax bill would have simplified the filing process and deliver tax relief to middle-class Minnesotans with the first income-tax rate cuts in almost two decades.
Disappointingly, the governor vetoed that bill, the second tax package he took down this session. Upon the first veto, he indicated he would not sign a tax bill into law until the Legislature provided more education funding to address a funding “emergency” he proclaimed late in the session. We accommodated him on that request, with up to $84 million in new funding for schools – $225 million in total when flexibility measures are added – to go more than halfway in meeting the governor on his key priorities and concerns.
Still, the governor vetoed the bill and failed to provide a specific set of reasons for why he was willing to damage taxpayers and deny school children the additional funding we provided them.
That bill was one of two major packages the governor vetoed. The other veto – of a supplemental budget bill – also will negatively impact many Minnesotans. The governor vetoed money for special education and to improve school safety. He denied money to restore a 7-percent cut to employees who take care of the disabled and for addressing opioid abuse. The governor vetoed reforms to help vulnerable adults and eliminated funding for new road and bridge construction. He also vetoed money for rural broadband expansion … and we’re just getting started.
Ovarall, the Legislature addressed nearly 70 percent of the specific concerns outlined by the governor late in the session – including his most major objections – and provided that “emergency” school funding he requested.
It is a shame the governor failed to return the favor and did not negotiate in good faith. Instead, he chose to continue adding to his list of demands in an erratic, unpredictable manner. Among the most perplexing late objections expressed by Dayton was his opposition to a measure that would have prevented someone from becoming a school bus driver if they previously had made a plea bargain to avoid prosecution for sexual assault.
Still, as I noted, it has been a highly productive last two sessions and, on top of that, our state is fully funded through June of 2019 and our economy continues to grow. Our unemployment rate is low and our budget reserves are strong.
Let’s take those positives into the 2019 session, when a new governor will be in place and a better environment for negotiating is bound to follow. I look forward to continuing my work to help the people of Minnesota in that new, more productive setting.