It was an honor participating in the recent National Prayer Day ceremony on the steps of the Capitol in St. Paul.
This coming Monday marks the start of the final full week of the 2019 legislative session and there is little budging so far on a new two-year state budget.
Conference committees have been assembled to work out differences between House and Senate versions of omnibus finance bills funding each area of state government. While those groups have been meeting, progress has been slow so far because the most important thing – a final spending total for each area – is still in the process of negotiation.
A major stumbling block to finding an agreeable budget is that House Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz both propose raising taxes by $12 billion at a time the state has a $1 billion surplus. This includes raising the gas tax by 70 percent (20 cents/gallon) and extending a tax on health care.
Our Republican majority friends in the Senate are holding firm on the tax increases and even put the 20-cent gas tax up for a stand-alone vote of that full body. It was unanimously defeated, 67-0, something I see as an indication the Senate is in line with Minnesotans who also overwhelmingly oppose raising the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon.
In addition to the gas tax, the House Democrat budget also hits drivers with an increase in the new-vehicle tax, an increase on vehicle registrations and a metro-wide sales tax to fund light rail.
As negotiations continue, we need to remember that compromise will be necessary to reach the finish line in assembling a new state budget since Minnesota is the only government in the nation with split legislative powers. That said, to this point, the governor and House Democrats have not formally specified a single penny of proposed tax increases they would be willing to concede.
That’s too bad, because even the governor’s own administration is reporting these tax increases would hit lower earners the hardest. The Star Tribune ran a recent article on this with more details. Click here for that.
With its billion-dollar surplus, the state already has plenty of money to fund our priorities as long as we hold them up as the priorities they are. In fact, with simple natural growth, it is estimated the government has a little over $3 billion more to spend in the next budget than in the current one.
Instead of taxing Minnesotans $12 billion more, we should actually be focusing on providing tax relief, just like in 2017 when House Republicans, delivered $650 million in tax relief to Minnesota families in 2018-2019 and $790 million for 2020-2021.
I will share more news as budget work continues at the Capitol. I also recently addressed this subject in a short video and you can see that here.
Until next time, have a happy Mother’s Day and good luck in the fishing opener.